A small class of middle school students could be added to the NET High School next year if leadership agrees to a plan proposed by the Recovery School District.
Principal Elizabeth Ostberg told the school’s board of directors that she has been approached multiple times in the last few months by the RSD about the possibility of taking on overage middle school students.
The addition would warrant a material amendment to the high school’s charter, and preliminary discussions on the matter began at an April 6 board meeting.
As an alternative high school, the majority of students at the NET are considered “overage” for their grade level, and according to Ostberg, the middle school students “would be around the same age and have similar issues as the current population.”
“There are lots of pros and cons to this,” Ostberg said. “A major pro is these are the kids that are coming to us anyway, and we struggle with not having enough time with them academically, this would give us more time.”
The potential new class would number around 16 students due to the physical constraints of the NET building at 1614 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Ostberg said. The school’s current enrollment is at 143 students.
She said the revenue generated by 16 new students would be enough to hire one teacher and one social worker for the group.
How students would be selected for the “self-contained” program, and who would select them is still up in the air and a question the principal hopes to have answered through continued discussion with the RSD.
Moving towards “a true therapeutic center with multiple adults working with a small group of kids” is another pro that Ostberg pointed to, but said it wouldn’t be a good fit for everyone.
“A true sixth-grader with behavioral problems wouldn’t be right for this,” Ostberg said.
Board member Melissa Lessell questioned if the school was already stretched too thin to take on such a pioneering endeavor, but said it is a compliment that the RSD reached out to the NET with the idea.
While the proposed program would be built solely for overage students, board President Kristina Kent expressed concern over varying ages once the idea is actualized.
“My worry is if we end up having 13-year-olds here alongside 21-year-olds,” Kent said. “We can’t have that.
While the students “may not be fundamentally different,” Ostberg explained that the plan would demand that school leadership learn a new set of rules and new testing (for middle school), and said the execution would be dependent on an extremely great teacher.
“While one small group of kids won’t fix the the RSD’s larger issue, if successful, the pilot program could go on to be replicated at a school of its own one day,” Ostberg said.
No decision deadline has been given to the NET, but the principal said hiring would be the most time-sensitive component.
Ostberg is in continued talks with the district over timelines and the board agreed to discuss the option further at its April 23 meeting.
As to school finances, Ostberg announced that the NET is a year ahead of schedule in paying back the $65,000 advanced to them by FirstLine Schools. She said the total will be repaid by June 30, and was loaned for the renovation of the NET’s Central City building.
Though The NET has its own board, it has a relationship with FirstLine. It opened in July 2012 as an alternative initiative started by Joseph S. Clark Prep High School, which is operated by FirstLine.
Principal Ostberg also announced that the school raised around $4,000 at its inaugural basketball tournament fundraiser held on March 30. The board called the event a success, and was happy to have the chance to reach out to people who didn’t already know about the school.
The meeting ran from 4 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.