By Jayme Taylor, Communication Manager
When you walk into Alternatives for Individuals High School (AIHS) you’re greeted by a secretary and passed by students moving from class to class. On all accounts, it’s just your average high school. However, after spending a few minutes with one of the school’s four teachers or its 58 students, it becomes clear that you’re in a unique educational setting that’s run like a tight-knit family.
AIHS was founded in 1972 to provide additional support to students struggling to achieve in a traditional high school setting. Since that time, thousands of high school-aged students have attended classes in the former 1940’s Navy Base School, adjacent to Clover Park Technical College.
In May 2008, an Alternative Learning Task Force was convened by the superintendent to review AIHS’s program in comparison with other state alternative programs to ensure that programming is aligned to the district’s mission; leads to a high school diploma; and that clear and consistent accountability measures are in place.
In December 2008, the task force put forth several recommendations to the district’s board of directors, which resulted in significant changes to AIHS. Most notably, Clover Park School District partnered with Clover Park Technical College’s (CPTC) Northwest Career and Technical High School (NWCTHS) to bring additional college and career-focused programs to AIHS’s students.
AIHS students will be granted entrance into NWCTHS to earn their 11th- and 12th-grade credits to enter a career pathways program in one of the following fields:
o Culinary Arts;
o Nursing; and
o Media Design and Production.
(Program schedules are set by CPTC and subject to change.)
In addition to earning credits from NWCTHS, students can earn Tech Prep Dual Credits, college credits and even an associate’s degree from CPTC.
“The partnership between AI and the technical college is so beneficial to our students, because it aligns their current high school course work with relevant, real-world learning opportunities that they can begin utilizing immediately as they enter higher education or their chosen career fields,” said Deb Shanafelt, principal of AIHS and district director of career and technical education.
Later this winter, AIHS will move into building 14 on the CPTC campus to share space with NWCTHS. A committee of students, parents and AIHS staff is also working to select a new name and brand identity for the program, subject to approval by the school board.
“These are some big changes and there’s a lot going on,” said Kevin Rupprecht,
AIHS’s new assistant principal. “What’s most important is that these changes are benefiting our students and helping them to finish high school while they set and achieve clear goals for their futures.”
Beginning last school year, enrollment at AIHS was closed to new students and current students began completing online credit retrieval courses through the district’s online program—in partnership with Federal Way School District’s Internet Academy—coupled with traditional teacher-taught courses. Staffing at AIHS was also greatly reduced in anticipation of the program changes recommended by the Alternative Learning Task Force.
This school year, students are continuing to retrieve credits and work with teachers to become high school juniors and meet standard on the High School Proficiency Exam and/or end of course exams needed for high school graduation.
“AI has been my home for the past 13 years, and I know how hard the students work to achieve—they are held to the same standards and expectations as any other high school student. They want to be here, they just need additional support and guidance that’s not always found at home or in an average four-year high school. We fill that need,” said Teresa Norton, an AIHS science teacher.
One of the changes to come out of the recommendations of the Alternative Learning Task Force is a new program called Jobs for America’s Graduates, (JAG) which is being piloted at AIHS under the leadership of veteran teacher Kitti Wheeler. JAG combines curriculum in leadership and employability with adult mentoring, advisement and support. JAG students serve in elected positions, similar to student government, where they can develop, practice and refine their leadership and teaming skills. Once JAG students leave AI, Wheeler will follow up with them for one year and provide necessary coaching and support as they pursue careers and postsecondary educations.
“I’m passionate about getting students involved in their schools and community,” said Wheeler. “We are working on assignments to prepare students for what life is really like after high school. My goal is to reintroduce AIHS into the community and to establish partnerships so that students know that people want them to succeed.”
For more information about the changes taking place at AIHS, visit the high school’s website, located under the “Schools” tab on the home page of the Clover Park School District website, www.cloverpark.k12.wa.us.