The school is now called ACE Academy, with the acronym representing “Alternative Choices in Education,” following an April decision by the school board.
Principal Richard Landolt rallied all of his 198 students to the school’s front lawn Friday morning to watch the installation of a new school sign to celebrate the school’s evolution.
“The old name reflected only one part of what we do,” Landolt said Friday. “Our main focus now is presenting these other choices that we have for our students.”
The change marks a turning point in the school’s history, after beginning with three teachers and 40 students 16 years ago.
The alternative school’s implementation was in response to a state funding grant for “Crossroads Alternative Education Programs” to serve as school settings for chronically disruptive students, and the name was chosen to reflect the state grant.
However, the grant funding was later discontinued by the state in 2000.
In 2010, the state school board voted to incorporate additional curricular programs into its definition of alternative schools, including credit and attendance recovery, early college, evening school and open campus.
The expansion, known as the Alternative Education State Board Rule, is also more inclusive of other educational delivery model choices.
Landolt said the change to ACE Academy reflects some of those additional offerings at the school, rather than the more limited scope intended by the previous CrossRoads program.
To celebrate, all of the school’s teachers and staff wore gold T-shirts featuring a green ‘A’ logo to mark the school’s new designation Friday.
Wanda Blanton, front desk receptionist for the school since its inception, said the new name makes the school’s mission statement to the community more clear.
“We’re just putting out there what we’ve always been doing behind these doors,” Blanton said.
Landolt said that throughout the year, the school typically has about 220 students enrolled with about one-third of the population there because of disciplinary reasons and two-thirds there by choice.
“We’re really an alternative school about choice,” he said. “The acronym reflects the totality of our program. We recognized the traditional name doesn’t meet and fit the needs for all of our students.”
Landolt said the school will begin science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, classes, as well as its vocational and technical courses, which positions itself neatly with the district’s Cherokee Academies initiative.
“I think this program here really fits into those Academy ideas by providing choice,” Landolt said.
ACE Academy does not serve as a night campus, because that need is already met by Polaris Evening School, but over the years has evolved to include students with specific needs, including those with disabilities and/or the desire for alternative instruction delivery models.
Students also have a choice of textbook or computer-based instructional units and initial credit and credit recovery options to meet state and local graduation requirements.
Also, the school is the only one within the district to provide German as a foreign language option.
“For them, it’s not only about the choices they’re offered but the choices they make,” Landolt said of his students.
The principal works to cultivate a culture of inspiration by doing things a little differently than in a typical high school, demonstrating that ACE Academy is a viable option for district students with different educational needs.
For example, since students work at their own pace and aren’t confined within semester courses, the first three to earn a course credit just a day after the ACE Academy opened its doors this week were honored with photographs on the front office bulletin board.
“It’s fun for them,” Landolt said. “I think it’s important to recognize their hard work.”
Paraprofessional Theres Glasok said the new signage is a wonderful thing for the school.
“It’s really taking it to the next level,” Glasok said. “We do give our students choice. Sometimes we have to make sure they know the right choice, but now our message more reflects what our school is all about.”
Cornelius Harshaw, a seventh-grade student, said he approved of the new name.
“People can say we’re bad kids, but that’s just not true,” he said. “I think (the new name) is good.”