Ferndale Schools Closes DLC, Modifies Alt. Ed Programdinos02sidelogo3
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 7, 2014)
For years anxious neighbors around the Taft Building at Allen and Fielding in Ferndale have complained about fights, drugs, and even incidents of weapons used in and around the building that housed adult alternative education programs for the Ferndale School District. The adult ed. program, followed by the Digital Learning Center, primarily served students from outside of the school district, and often students who did not do well in a traditional school setting. While the waterworkprograms have helped hundreds of young people get an education they may not otherwise have had access too, the programs also attracted students who did not follow the rules.
On Thursday a student brought a loaded pistol to the school, which went off during a search of the 17-year-old. No one was injured, but the youth was arrested and the incident is being investigated. This follows several years’ worth of incidents, including a student being shot outside the school in 2012, and a 2013 fight that resulted in six arrests and one broken leg.
The latest incident prompted Superintendent Blake Prewitt to announce changes to the alternative education program, including closing the building and moving the students to a mainly online program based out of the Jefferson Center.
Prewitt released the following statement:Sahara ad with wine
“Starting Monday, November 10th, 2014, Ferndale Schools will be modifying its alternative high school program, the Digital Learning Center (DLC).  This change is being made to improve safety, academic achievement and fiscal responsibility.
Student safety and achievement is at the heart of all we do.  Each decision that we make as a district revolves around improving the safety and academic success of all of our students.  By altering the DLC model, we are putting our students in a better position to be successful.
When the DLC opened three years ago, the program was built around 700 students.  Currently, the seed010_todd_blakenshipDLC has 343 students.  This lower number allows us to change the model of the DLC from a hybrid brick-and-mortar/online alternative high school to a completely online school.  To best serve our existing DLC students, our Academic Case Managers will be available to conduct one-on-one mentoring by appointment only, in person or virtually, to supplement the online component.
As part of the transition, the DLC staff will be moving from its current location at the Taft Education Center to the Jefferson Center by December 1st.  The staff will be available for one-on-one appointments with the DLC students. This move will leave the Taft building temporarily vacant.  The building will be re-evaluated during the current ongoing district restructuring process for potential future use.
We will also be enhancing the security presence at the Jefferson Center to cover the increased number of students.HowesLocation
As a district, we have to be responsible stewards both financially and academically while maintaining a safe learning environment.  This move will allow Ferndale Schools to save the operating costs of the Taft building while offering an improved school model to our DLC students.
It is never ideal to have to make drastic changes to one of our programs during the school year.  However, in light of recent events, swift action was called for.  During the coming months, my administrative team will be investigating the best way to service all of our students for the next gallowaycollens1school year.”
Prewitt began his job as Superintendent at the beginning of this school year, inheriting many problems from the previous administration, including massive technical vulnerabilities and financial issues. Addressing the concerns of the DLC was one of many items on his to-do list, bumped up by Thursday’s gun incident.
“The discouraging thing is that there are many students who learn through the program. It gives them the chance to finish school when their life circumstances may not be ideal for traditional schools. Maybe they need to work. Or they have a family to take care of. We provide an education to those students, and the sad piece is that one student who makes a very poor decision affects the students who really want an education,” Prewitt said in an interview on Thursday evening.
School Board President Jim O’Donnell agrees with the decision made.  “As School Board President, I appreciate Superintendent Blake Prewitt’s care and decisiveness in addressing the ongoing issues with the DLC. This is the best solution for this program, the students and the community. I completely stand behind the superintendent’s statement today,” O’Donnell said.
The Jefferson Center is located at 22001 Republic Ave in Oak Park.