The city’s school district is in the planning stages of opening up an alternative middle school for tough sixth, seventh, and eight graders. The academy called S.T.R.I.V.E Academy, (Students-Taking-Responsibility, Initiative and Valuing-Education) for now, will accept troubled middle schoolers, who exhibit behavioral and attendance problems, according to school officials.
Speaking before the school board early last week, Nicole Payne, director of alternative education, sketched out traits that would place a student in the academy. “The type of student we’d like to serve [will demonstrate] mild-to-moderate behavioral and severe attendance issues,” said Payne. “Students who fit the profile may have defiant, disruptive, and/or destructive behaviors.”
Payne said principals will have to recommend students to the academy. Each student will be placed for one-year, said Payne; however, at any time a parent may intervene to remove the student out of the academy.
“I don’t want the alternative middle school to become this place where students just exist and they just stay, but the whole idea is to equip them what they need so they can go back to the traditional setting,” said Payne.
The academy, which will be housed in the Boris Kroll mill building, will have eight teachers, one counselor, and four instructional aides. Payne said the “offenders” will be taught civil responsibilities, social, and emotional skills to potentially address negative behavior. The program will have limited seating: 48 seats, said Payne.
Errol Kerr, school board member, questioned where the funds would come from to run the program. “At this point, I don’t know where the money is coming from to fund that program,” said Kerr.
Deputy superintendent Eileen Shafer answered that the space was freed up at the building after two programs concluded. “There were no new positions, no cost for the building or the space, and no additional teachers because we had all of that already budgeted for,” said Shafer.
Christopher Irving, school board president, said he would like to see a clear budget for the program. Irving also raised concerns over middle school students being placed in the same building as high school students.
Payne said there will be a partition separating high schoolers from middle schoolers.
“I have some very grave concerns, besides the partition, nothing addresses that,” said Irving. The president said even with the staggered school start schedule students are likely to mix. “They may be separated in school, but they’ll be going to the bodega together, they’ll be walking down the street together, they’ll be crossing 21st Avenue together,” said Irving.
The president said he also doesn’t want the academy turning into a dumping ground for certain students. “I hope this is not going to be a dumping ground for young people who are classified,” said Irving.
Payne said she will make sure it does not turn into a dumping ground.