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Learning Center Using New Online System to Help Students Graduate image

Learning Center Using New Online System to Help Students Graduate

The Hastings Senior High Learning Center has entered the second year of using a new online program, but the center’s goal remains the same: Helping more students graduate.

Principal Thomas Szlanda said the Learning Center was already up and running, offering an alternative education setting, when he came to Hastings Senior High 13 years ago. Last year, however, the center began using an online education system called Acellus.

Acellus uses a number of teaching methods, including videos, and it’s all individualized to the student’s needs.

“We look at the credits that they have and what they need to graduate,” Szlanda said. The Acellus program is then set up to help the student complete those remaining classes.

Acellus also provides assessments and re-teaching if a student needs additional help mastering a subject, he said.

Szlanda said the Learning Center previously used self-guided packets to teach students. Those packets were supplemented by a different online program called Odysseyware.

Learning Center students are typically juniors, seniors or “super seniors,” who have completed 12th grade but haven’t graduated.

Szlanda said the Learning Center environment benefits students who are at risk of dropping out and have a credit deficient, who have dropped out but returned to school, who have been expelled or placed on long-term suspension, or who just need a more flexible schedule.

Students learn at their own pace, he said. The center is staffed with two teachers and a paraeducator who can lend a hand if a student needs assistance.

Located in a separate building across 18th Street from the high school campus, the Learning Center is close by but offers some separation from the traditional school environment, Szlanda said. The building is comprised of two classrooms, an office, and a kitchenette.

Compared to Hastings Senior High’s overall enrollment of 1,070, the Learning Center’s capacity of 40 students is small. Because some students work faster than others, enrollment at the Learning Center ebbs and flows.

“There’s some transition in there,” Szlanda said.

He described the Learning Center as a “Tier 3 intervention.”

Tier 1 represents the traditional learning environment at Hastings Senior High. Tier 2 includes about 20% of students, who remain in the traditional environment but require some re-teaching and other assistance.

About 3 to 5% of students need additional help, such as the Learning Center, he said.

“Once a student goes to the Learning Center, they’re going to continue on there,” Szlanda said.

As with any student at Hastings Senior High, the goal for students at the Learning Center is to graduate high school. On average, about 15 to 20 students graduate each year using the Learning Center.

Many former Learning Center students go to work, a trade school or community college, he said.

Although many in the general public may not be aware of the Learning Center, it plays an important role.

“It’s just a valuable resource,” Szlanda said, “just another tactic we have to help kids graduate.”