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home : columnists : columnists September 20, 2017


8/23/2017 4:00:00 AM
Options grow at Charter School
Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear cuts the ribbon on the new middle school wing opened by Options Charter School in Noblesville, alongside high school principal Jake Brandau (from left), State Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson, school director Michelle Walden, school president Mike Gustin and middle school principal Adam Barr.
Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear cuts the ribbon on the new middle school wing opened by Options Charter School in Noblesville, alongside high school principal Jake Brandau (from left), State Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson, school director Michelle Walden, school president Mike Gustin and middle school principal Adam Barr.
The Times photos by Betsy ReasonKrista Shields teaches English to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Options Charter School’s new middle school.
The Times photos by Betsy Reason

Krista Shields teaches English to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Options Charter School’s new middle school.


By Betsy Reason
Editor


Noblesville's Mason Burden said he is able to focus more on his education thanks to a smaller-classroom environment and one-on-one time he receives with his teachers at Options Charter School in Noblesville.

The 15-year-old freshman, a former student at Noblesville East Middle School, was referred to Options during his eighth-grade year because of his need for that one-on-one time.

He is one of seven students who participated in a middle-school pilot program that started in February at Options Charter School. He is now among 20 freshmen at the school, which enrolls its maximum, 185 students grades 9-12.

At the beginning of this school year, Options officially opened a new middle school, for grades 7-8, as an alternative for the nontraditional student who needs an option earlier than high school.

"What we do is, we find those kids who fall through the cracks," Mike Gustin, the school's president, said Monday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the new middle school in Noblesville.

When the Options Charter school year started Aug. 7, middle-school classes were conducted at Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville until the new middle-school location opened Thursday in the west wing of the Options Charter School. The 14,000-square-foot building, at 9945 Cumberland Pointe, was originally built in 2004 and has been remodeled and expanded to utilize space in the entire building.

Options Charter School, authorized by Ball State University, is a free, publicly funded independent school. The Carmel campus opened in 2002, and the Noblesville campus opened in 2006; both campuses offer grades 9-12 with a maximum capacity of 185 students per school, with 15 or fewer students per teacher. In 2017, about 80 students graduated.

"If the student is going to a traditional school in the area, and they're doing a good job, and they're passing classes, and they have connections to the schools, we leave those kids alone, because our traditional schools in the area are some of the finest in the state, probably the country," Gustin said.

He applauded Noblesville Schools superintendent Beth Niedermeyer, who has attended Options Charter School events and shared stories with folks in Noblesville and Sheridan Community schools. Dave Mundy, Niedermeyer's assistant superintendent, and Hamilton Heights Schools superintendent Derek Arrowood and Westfield Washington Schools superintendent Sherry Grate, have all become "receptive and open to the fact that we don't want to come in and take your students away," Gustin said. "We want to add to the community. We feel like we're a complement to the fine work that folks in traditional public schools are doing."

Both Noblesville and Sheridan Community schools offer transportation for their seventh- and eighth-grade students to Options Charter School's Noblesville campus.

Mundy, who was in attendance and is the former superintendent for Sheridan schools, said the collaboration "is a perfect example" of traditional public school and charter school partnerships.

"It's been a long-time coming," said Noblesville's Danny Jimenez, the school's at-risk coordinator. He introduced each of the guest speakers and led tours of the newly renovated building, which allows graduating seniors to create art on ceiling tiles.

"It's about options for students to gain a (nontraditional) education," said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear, who cut the ribbon on the new wing of the school, alongside other officials who included State Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson and Noblesville Fire Department Chief Greg Wyant. "We're excited to give them the opportunity here in Noblesville," Ditslear said.

This school year, there are 10 students enrolled in the Options Charter School's new middle school, which has a capacity of 50 students. Options Charter School, which originally leased the building, purchased the building in 2015.

"When we became the (building) owners, we began discussing how we could expand and how else we could use the space," said Michelle Walden, the school's director. Over the summer, the building was renovated to house the middle school.

The former elementary school teacher who holds a master's degree in education said students who come to Options Charter School are usually students from all over the area who are struggling to connect in their traditional schools. They might be failing grades or have a social disconnection or anxieties about going to school or an illness. About 80 percent of the students came there because they weren't performing academically.

"They're looking for something different, because they're just not making it in the traditional setting. Every student who comes to us is at-risk of dropping out of school,' Walden said.

She said the middle school was added because of the need. "We kind of had this gut feeling that if we could get to them a little earlier, maybe they could return to their traditional setting if they wanted to," Walden said.

Students in the middle school move from class to class just as middle-schoolers do in the traditional school setting, with academic and elective classes, such was music, physical education and technology. "It may just look different," Walden said.

While the school is free to attend, there are $185 student curriculum fees, that include students using Chromebooks.

The school motto is "Belong, Believe, Achieve."

Walden said, "We meet the children where they are socially, emotionally, mentally, behaviorally....We help them set those many goals to be able to be successful. The end goal is that diploma, and we're willing to walk along beside them for however long it takes."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.





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