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Friday, April 6, 2012 - 12:15pm

Alternative School To Get Overhaul

Chatham County school officials are privatizing the district's full-day alternative learning center.

That's where students with discipline problems go while they're not in a regular class.

The school called Scott Learning Center usually serves about 500 students each day.

School board members decided to shorten the program's hours and rely more heavily on computer-based learning.

Administrators say, the firm's individualized method is more effective for troubled kids.

But community activist the Reverend Leonard Small says, student-teacher interactions are an important part of the process.

"The system that they are proposing will have children in school for less time, with less supervision," Small says. "If you've got a discipline problem you're going to need more supervision than the other average student."

The private company combines traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with computer driven activities in a model called blended learning.

The district's chief academic officer Sharon Sands says, the approach is better for reaching a younger generation.

"We're really excited about being able to offer a more individualized approach," Sand says. "All of our schools are asking for more and more computers, more and more technology, more and more blended learning, because that's the way kids learn today."

But opponents say, troubled students should be given more one-to-one interaction, not less.

The board's decision was driven in part by the budget.

The district expects to save about $2 million, or half its alternative school cost, with the private company.

A 2008 federal report says, about a quarter of the alternative schools in the Southeast are privately managed.