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Tiger Talk: Area Learning Center helps students

The Pine River-Backus Area Learning Center continues to be a productive, supportive and highly structured learning environment, focused on the needs of at-risk learners ages 16 to 21.

We partner with the Pequot Lakes School District and serve some of their at-risk students at our site. Our small, quiet setting, which offers one-to-one and small group instruction, is beneficial to many underachieving learners.

We have a growing number of students who open enroll from area communities to participate in our program after being unsuccessful elsewhere.

The program is designed to help struggling students who meet at-risk criteria receive their high school diploma. Our ALC runs an independent study format where students must attend a minimum of set hours per week of instructional time depending on their age, but are able to self determine the exact amount of time spent on site every week according to their individual learning style and needs.

Additional coursework is then completed independently off site.

Courses are available in conventional book format and in a hybrid online format. The staff works to meet the needs of individual learners while providing the support they need to succeed and earn a regular high school diploma.

The program is designed to help struggling students receive their diploma, but state programming guidelines do not always allow students to re-enroll after dropping out, so it is a high priority for staff to keep students connected and progressing toward their goal of graduation, even if this is after their originally planned graduation date.

The ALC staff has developed many programs over the past few years to enhance student academic skills, improve test scores, develop work/career knowledge and skills, set career goals, and increase the student use of technology.

iPads and Chromebooks and other technology have been used in the building to enhance courses and add additional curriculum. ALC staff has worked to offer a wide variety of meaningful electives courses for both college bound and employment trades bound students.

Staff works to build the skill sets of individual students after determining the at-risk factors that resulted in alternative placement. Many students have poor organization and memory skills. Improving these skills helps to ensure greater success in their future after graduation.

The future success of our graduates is an important part of our programming. We focus on the World of Work Skills, so that students who do not plan to attend additional post-secondary training are ready to succeed in area employment opportunities. We work closely with the staff for in-district mental health programming to provide for all the needs of at-risk students and to ensure educational and future life success.

The ALC program is also the funding source for the much needed and beneficial targeted services programs in the elementary and junior high settings and the credit recovery program that many full-time high school students need to graduate on time.

In the elementary buildings the ALC funding stream provides afterschool Power Learners and summer school for at-risk learners and afterschool instructional programing in seventh and eighth grades for students at risk.

In our building, we serve students weekly after school and during the summer to recover credits failed in the regular ninth- to 12th-grade high school setting. We also serve students from Pine River-Backus High School who can come over during the regular school day to make up credits, or are at risk and need individualized instruction for some courses of study, or who take the Work Experience course that is supervised by one of our instructors.

Our goal at the ALC is to build solid academic skills and foster future success in our students. We work closely with all students but take a personal interest in past date graduates to ensure they complete the requirements and receive their diploma.

We then work with students to seek additional education and training in an effort to ensure they are productive members of our community. Over the 20-plus years that the Pine River-Backus ALC program has been in place, we have had over 750 students who earned their diploma through our program.