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Alternative School program has a storied past

January 17, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The new Antietam Academy school that opens Wednesday has its roots in the Alternative School program that started in 1977 and has been hosted at various schools throughout the years.

Before starting the program in September 1977, the Washington County Board of Education visited similar programs in Baltimore and in Howard and Carroll counties, said B. Marie Byers, who served on the board in 1977.

Byers said the program wasn’t just for disruptive students, but for students who needed a second chance or a “pause in time.” The first class included at least two students who needed such a pause — a boy affected by his parents’ divorce and a girl whose mother died, Byers said.

The program helped youths who needed a change so they could be successful, she said.

Here’s a look back on significant moments in the program’s history:

• September 1977 — The new Alternative School program starts at North Street Community Center. In November, the program had 25 students, mostly high school students and some middle-schoolers.

• Fall 1978 — The Alternative School moves to Broadway School.

• September 1980 — The Alternative School was to start the school year at Woodland Way School, moving from Broadway School so that school building could be closed. But the Alternative School returned to Broadway, starting its school year late, after neighbors and parents of Woodland Way’s elementary school students protested having high school-aged students with disciplinary issues attend classes at Woodland Way.

• March 1981 — Insistence from Byers leads to the Alternative School being kept in the school system’s regular budget. Some board members were considering moving it to a supplemental budget, which ran the risk of being cut due to budget tightening.

• Jan. 26, 1982 — On the recommendation of Schools Superintendent Claud Kitchens, the school board approves moving the alternative education program from Broadway School to the old North Street School to save about $10,000 in maintenance costs.

• Nov. 25, 1987 — Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel W. Moylan issues a show cause order to the school board in the case of an Alternative School student he believes should have been attending school full time. The Alternative School had become a half-day program, with high school students attending morning classes and middle school students taking afternoon classes.

• Jan. 18, 1988 — Moylan calls the Alternative Program “unjust” and “illegal.” Moylan said the half-day curriculum was unfair to students and possibly illegal. He also criticized the location at North Street School. The American Civil Liberties Union also had urged school system officials to improve the Alternative School.

• April 1988 — In what school board members said was a temporary measure, they decided to move the Alternative School to South Hagerstown High School’s Building “H” with the new school year. Building “H” was built for Hagerstown Junior College before it had its campus east of Hagerstown.

• August 1988 — Renamed the Alternative Learning Center, the former alternative school starts the school year in South High’s Building “H.” The school has a full-day class schedule, two new teachers and a 55 percent budget increase.

• March 4, 2003 — The school board approves changing the name of The Alternative Learning Center to Antietam Academy.

• Feb. 8, 2005 — Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan says she plans to discuss the future of Antietam Academy’s location or locations with the school board because South High is overcrowded and could use the building on campus that houses the academy.

• August 2005 — Antietam Academy’s middle-school program starts the school year at Western Heights Middle School after being on the campus of South High the previous year.

• Dec. 11, 2007 — The Washington County Board of Education votes unanimously to submit to the County Commissioners capital improvement budget requests, including a request for $4.25 million to help build a new Antietam Academy.

• March 2, 2009 — An accidental fire significantly damages Antietam Academy’s high school building on South High’s campus. A plumber using a soldering torch on a copper pipe burned through a wall, igniting flammable items on the other side. The academy’s high school students attend classes at South High and then Grace Brethren Church until the end of the school year. The following school year, the classes were moved to portable classrooms on the South High campus.

• Sept. 15, 2009 — Ground is broken for a new Antietam Academy off West Oak Ridge Drive.

• Jan. 19, 2011 — The new Antietam Academy’s scheduled opening day.

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