New Clinton High School program giving students a different way to learn

CLINTON, IOWA  --  A new alternative school in Clinton is helping students who may struggle to learn in a regular classroom setting. Gateway Learning Center opened in August.

The program has 5 teachers, a teachers aide, a social worker, and a guidance counselor for the 50 students that attend. It is a partnership between Camanche High School and Clinton High School. There are 40 kids from Clinton and 10 kids from Camanche at Gateway Learning Center.

"A lot of students are here just because of social and emotional needs," Lead teacher Jill Wright said. "They have things going on outside or inside themselves that are preventing them from being productive at the high school."

"It's not really given to me as a punishment, it's given to me because it is more convenient for me," student Bjorn Jenks said. "I can't do well in regular school."

It is not a separate high school, so when it is time for students to graduate, the diploma will come from Camanche or Clinton High Schools.

The structure of the school is different. Classes start later and get out earlier. The class sizes are also smaller to focus more on individual learning, but the curriculum is the same as the high schools.

"We are very small, we are much more flexible," Wright said. "If a student comes on a given day and is really struggling with something, just isn't feeling math that day, they can be working on their English or work on their Science, as long as they are being productive."

"I'm doing a lot better than I have in regular school," Jenks said.

The program also offers students the opportunity to not come to school on Fridays if they get all their work done.

"Other people think 'yeah it's just where all the bad kids go' and it's really not at all," Wright said. "Most of the kids up here are awesome. Some of the kids who are here are becoming more awesome and really getting to flourish, because they are up here."

Clinton High School has always had an alternative program, but this is the first program out of the building in more than five years. The district rents the building for $2,500 a month. The building was a former elementary school. The district did renovate it by adding in security cameras.

"I would say everybody is benefiting, just in different ways," Wright said. "I think this community has a really really high need. I' m sure we could be way bigger than we are now."

"Without Gateway, I'd probably still be at the high school, not doing my work, not necessarily caring about authority figures," Jenks said.

There is a wait list to get into the program. Starting in January, 2020, the program will offer class credit to students with jobs.

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