The creation and expansion of new educational programs for high school students at Des Moines Public Schools has provided the school district with an opportunity to restructure and modernize its approach to alternative education.
Over the past few years, three programs have come online that greatly expand the options available to students and families facing challenges and barriers to earning high school credits and re-engage them so they can earn their diploma. Those programs are:
- FLEX ACADEMY: Flex Academy studios are non-traditional 21st century classrooms that provide students with credit recovery through personalized instructional plans. Students are served in a smaller environment at each comprehensive high school, receiving support services for their needs while working to earn the credits required for graduating high school.
- OPTIONS ACADEMY: Options Academy is a high school program for current or reengaged Des Moines Public Schools students who would like to earn their high school diploma by combining their current credits with the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). In addition to a personalized teaching and learning plan for each student, Options Academy also provides students with career coaching and post-secondary opportunities. The program serves students 17-21 years old.
- VIRTUAL CAMPUS: Virtual Campus is an online high school – designed and taught by DMPS educators – to provide greater equity of access and opportunity for success to all students. Students from throughout Des Moines and across Iowa are able to enroll to take online high school courses. Virtual Campus provides students with chronic safety or legal violations the chance to continue their studies outside of a comprehensive high school.
These programs have seen significant growth in a short amount of time, in large part because they provide more options and greater flexibility rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting alternative educational needs. For example, during its first full year, almost 400 students are enrolled in Virtual Campus while nearly a thousand students participate in the Flex Academy at one of our five comprehensive high schools.
What about Scavo High School?
Scavo has historically played an important role in our district, serving students with a variety of personal, behavioral and other needs that made attending a traditional high school a challenge. With the growth and development of new programs, this has been the right time for DMPS to look beyond brick-and-mortar solutions for alternative education. For Scavo, that means it will continue to play an important, yet different, role in alternative education at DMPS.
The School Board approved a plan to change the designation of Scavo from a comprehensive high school to an academic program. What that means is, starting with the 2020-21 school year, Scavo Program students will be enrolled at their home high school while doing all or part of their academic work through Scavo. Students will also earn their diploma from their home high school. This arrangement is similar to how Central Academy and Central Campus operate. Scavo will be smaller – with five teachers and a counselor – as more and more students are participating in other alternative programs. This change finds the right balance between the reality of our changing enrollments in alternative programs while supporting students who will benefit from what Scavo has to offer.
As Iowa’s largest and diverse school district, a goal at DMPS is to recognize the different education needs of our students … and serve them. The growth and development of new options in alternative education programs in recent years is a major step in realizing that goal.