HAMILTON COUNTY — Three school districts are teaming up to help every student cross the finish line. It’s their first semester running Northern Hamilton County Academy — an alternative setting for students who may not graduate on their own.
Local superintendents said that, without a partnership between the Westfield, Sheridan and Hamilton Heights school districts, the program wouldn’t be possible.
“Our school corporations have worked well together for a long time,” Hamilton Heights Superintendent Derek Arrowood said. “‘Why don’t we just do one together?’
“We also love being Huskies, and we love being Blackhawks, and we love being Shamrocks. We like that individual opportunity too, but there are times when we can work together and do great things for kids.”
High school students can face any number of individual challenges. Maybe one has fallen behind on credits, doesn’t show up to class or makes poor decisions. The purpose of Northern Hamilton County Academy is to reduce the chances that teenager will fail.
“Those kids are offered the choice to rather than be expelled from school, we’re going to offer you an alternative setting to finish out this semester so you can come back with credits,” Arrowood said.
The idea came from Sheridan Superintendent Dave Mundy, who said there’s been a need in the area for this kind of school. They’ve already enrolled eight students.
“Considering we started a month ago, that’s fantastic,” Mundy said. “We’ve already had several successes coming out of the program as well. But we do believe it’ll continue to grow and we’re going to probably expand faster than we anticipated.”
Arrowood gave an example of one student who is already improving significantly.
“That kid, he’s a rock star,” Arrowood said. “He has started off with very few credits going into his senior year. There is hope now he may actually graduate on time because he’s coming to school almost every day.”
Both Arrowood and Mundy said that, although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only factor, learning loss is real, and it has changed the way they approach education.
“Is that the main driving point behind this? No, it’s not,” Mundy said. “But does it have other kids down there that are maybe down there because of loss they had during that time? Absolutely.”
Mundy said the yearly cost to run the program is around $100,000. He added that the program is funded through grants and several partners, like the County Council.