CLINTON – Jill Wright looked through a stack of posters for one that didn't have faces of old mathematicians on it, but eventually she had to staple the old men to the wall above the windows of her new classroom.
Wright is the at risk teacher for the new Gateway Learning Center alternative high school, a shared venture between the Clinton and Camanche school districts. Wright taught math to at risk students at Clinton High School prior to making the move to Gateway.
Gateway Learning Center has five classrooms, an office and meeting rooms at the Gateway Area Community Center, which is the former site of both Henry Sabin Elementary School and Lincoln Alternative High School, Wright said Tuesday. The school will teach math, science, English and social studies and has designated one room for small-group projects.
Gateway Learning Center will also sometimes use the Community Center's space, Wright said. "We can utilize each other's resources," using a classroom for yoga, the field outside for softball and the gymnasium for basketball. Wright is hoping to implement project-based learning in collaboration with the Community Center as well.
"We're just learning as we go," Wright said. The Learning Center's final form is still unknown.
What Wright knows is that the Learning Center doesn't want the space to look anything like a classroom. Traditional school desks and chairs will be absent, replaced by recliners or bar stools. The environment will be flexible so that if a student misses a few days, he or she is not a week behind but will pick up where they left off.
The curriculum is online so the teacher doesn't have to spend time lecturing and can instead help students individually at whatever level they've reached. "I could have a classroom of 10 kids," Wright said, and they'd all be in different places in the curriculum.
Community partners such as Women's Health Services and Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center will visit the campus regularly, Wright said.
The Learning Center's teachers have been taking training from the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, Wright said. "We've just got tons of support from [Clinton Community School Superintendent] Gary [DeLacy] and the AEA."
Gateway is planning for 50 students – 40 from Clinton and 10 from Camanche, Wright said, and the program already has a waiting list. Originally intended for juniors and seniors, Gateway has opened its doors to freshmen and sophomores after school officials found some younger students who could benefit from the program, Wright said.
The school will follow the Clinton School District calendar, though the daily schedule will be a little different.
Secretary Allyson Comstock was busy at her computer Tuesday amid boxes and equipment that will not be part of the final office. Though the floor has cracked titles and the window blocks were a little grimy, Comstock was happy to have new white walls to replace the darker red and black ones.
Everything was dumped in that room when it was moved to the Community Center, Wright said, but teachers have found their classroom furniture and supplies and moved them to their own rooms, which they are readying for Friday, Aug. 23, the first day of class for Gateway Learning Center students.