Students suspended from school for drug and alcohol abuse have made better progress at a district street campus rather than serving their penalty at home.
That assessment comes from Gino Coholero, who has administered the district’s directed suspensions program since its inception eight years ago.
Coholero gave the board of education an overview of the program as he hands it over to his successor, Robb Dolson. Dolson has administered the district Street School program for the past three years.
He said the program works because it assures school safety while directing students through their five- to 10-day suspensions with organized study and community service time. It also provides support for counselling
Participants have found that their study time is more productive than in regular classes.
The program operates out of a Victoria Street storefront campus, co-operating with the food bank, Salvation Army and New Life Mission to engage the students in community work.
“Many of them enjoyed it so much that they went on to become regular volunteers."
Suspensions have trended upwards, from 103 in 2005/2006 to 132 last school year and peaked at 224 two years ago.
“The numbers have increased because students are getting suspended for a variety of reasons and it us just makes sense to have support,” Coholero said.
Kent Brewer, principal of the Twin Rivers Education Centre, another alternative program, said mental health issues are an emerging trend among students.
Dolson leaves Street School in good standing. Last week, it was one of four schools nationwide to be recognized by the ABC Life Literacy Program. The honour includes a $5,000 award, which will be used for the program.
Kent said use of a literacy outreach worker, augmenting teaching staff, supports success among adult learners.
District superintendent Terry Sullivan said last year support from alternative programs last year enabled 100 students to complete high school, students who would have otherwise not graduated.
“If a student’s going to be successful, there has to be an adult somewhere that engages them. We’ve known that for 50 years.”