Mason City Schools Offer Alternative School Option

Mason City Schools in Mason, Ohio is annually recognized as one of the top public school systems in the State of Ohio.  The District earned the state’s top ranking for the past 10 years—most recently Excellent with Distinction. Mason consistently ranks in Ohio’s Academic Top 10– placing 6th out of 613 Ohio school districts this year. Students in every grade level consistently score above the state and national average in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, and on the SAT, ACT and AP tests.

But even in elite, high performing school districts like Mason, there are students who struggle academically and fall into the category of being “at risk”.  Truancy, substance abuse, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, poor decisions and many other factors are all common issues that may lead to a student’s decision to drop out and/or pursue other less viable educational options.

Several years ago administrators and counselors at Mason High School recognized the need to address “at risk” challenges within the district and develop a program that could help these students stay in school and graduate.
“We were seeing many cases where students were withdrawing and enrolling in other virtual programs, some only to return to us a year later, very credit deficient,” said Mason High School administrator Niki Huelsman.  “We recognized that Mason needed to look at an alternative setting that would allow these students to see the light at the end of the tunnel, experience success, and get back on track to graduate, while keeping them close to our support services.  The data really drove the decision to move forward with beginning an alternative program here at MHS.”

The Mason Achievement Program (MAP) was created and launched in the fall of 2008 to provide an educational alternative for identified students in a non-traditional environment.  MAP is located in remodeled classrooms at the Mason Central Office in downtown Mason.  Candidates for the program are considered based on referrals from counselors, teachers and administrators.  Eligibility for the program is determined after all other high school intervention strategies have been exhausted.  Students in the program pursue their academic study independently via online academic instruction delivered through the APEX Learning System.  The program’s work experience component allows participants to gain valuable employment experiences while they are earning high school credits.

“Students enrolled in MAP are all here for different reasons,” said Program Director Dan Hilen.  “Our mission is to provide an encouraging and supportive atmosphere that enables these students to get back on track academically.”  Since the program’s launch last year 41 students have taken advantage of the alternative option.  To date 28 students have graduated from MAP with 11 more currently working towards completing their high school requirements.

“I would never have finished high school without this program,” said one recent MAP graduate.  “I just couldn’t function with all the issues I had at the high school.  MAP helped me academically refocus and now I’m enrolled in college classes to prepare for a career in the healthcare industry.”

Through the Mason Achievement Program’s alternative option, Mason City Schools is providing a creative educational option for students to get back on their feet academically and move on to the next step in their lives.
For more information contact Dan Hilen at hilend@mason.k12.oh.us.

Prepared by Daniel Hilen, MAP Program Director, Mason City Schools

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