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ALC sees 'remarkable' results

"Remarkable results," are being seen at the Area Learning Center in Perham after a new system for students has been implemented, according to ALC Director Fred Sailer.

Higher goals and expectations have been set for ALC students, Sailer said. Now, instead of having drop-in students, all students are required to be at the ALC at a certain time and be at the center for three hours unless all work is ready to go. The ALC's program remains independent study and students are expected to spend time outside the classroom on school work.

"We're encouraging students to study outside the center," Sailer said. "So it's more like college. They better be booking it outside the classroom."

In the past, students were scheduled for half-hour blocks and an instructor would work with up to four kids at a time.

"Too many kids didn't have the discipline to operate under that system," Sailer said. "Under our eye, kids were falling behind as we were unwilling to do that anymore."

An online component has also been added. Students now have access to electives such as languages, literature, art history and much more. Any student with Internet access can take the online courses. It may be a challenge, but the opportunity is there, Sailer said.

Credit for the new system goes to the ALC staff, Sailer said, that came up with the idea. And it's already paying off, Sailer said.

"The results have been remarkable," he said. "We made the choice to make a radical change midstream and the kids have responded really well to it. There are kids that are exceeding full time status as a result."

ALC staff have also set up an incentive program to encourage the students. Sailer is asking area businesses to donate gas cards or other items to reward students.

Staff at the center have been working with about 80 students since September, Sailer said. The ALC employs five part-time staff members. There are both full and part-time students from five different school districts, with the majority of students coming from Perham, New York Mills and Frazee.

While the ALC is there to help students with a variety of different situations, Sailer said his big goal is to keep kids from dropping out of school.

"The message is to stay in school," Sailer said. "We never want to make our way of delivering education look or sound better than high school because it flat out isn't. It is an option for those who have fallen behind, are pregnant, have chemical dependency issues. It is a means to an education and we think we do a pretty nice job here, but nothing, in my opinion, replaces the high school experience."