There are over 7,000 students within the Strongsville City School District. They take part in a wide array of activities, and they learn in different atmospheres. It is no secret that students learn things in different ways. The district has acknowledged that some students are simply not successful in a traditional classroom environment, which is why it funds the education of a small number of students through the Ombudsman Program.

The Ombudsman Program is an off-site alternate learning environment that takes away the distractions of the typical school building for high school students who may be at risk for dropping out of school. For students who are lacking credits, having behavioral problems or are not succeeding in school, they have the opportunity to go to school for three hours every day and complete their education within an abbreviated time frame. They are closely supervised by instructors in all of their studies, making it a more structured program than many online programs that can be completed from home. Students have the option at the beginning of each semester to go to one of the local sites, being Brook Park or Olmsted Falls.

“It’s a good program, and it helps with truancy problems. Where some of these kids were tempted to skip a class at the high school, they can’t do that there. They have no place to go until class is over. They seem to respond well to the supervision, too. It keeps them accountable for their work. If they took online classes at home, there’s more temptation to sleep in or get distracted by doing other things,” said Stephanie Barnes, the high school guidance counselor who oversees the program.

According to Barnes, once the students leave school each day, most of them have jobs to go to. If they choose to do so, they can also attend school-sanctioned activities.

“They are still considered Strongsville students, and they graduate with a Strongsville diploma. We receive weekly reports from Ombudsman for grades and attendance, and we treat them just like the students that are in the building every day,” Barnes said.

There are about 10 Strongsville students currently enrolled in the program. They have the same core requirements for graduation that students at the high school have, such as the typical English, math, social studies and science classes. They also have the opportunity to take elective classes on topics of interest. Each student has an individualized learning plan to focus on developing their academic skills and improve their success. They are in classrooms with less than a 10 to 1 student to teacher ratio.

“It is not vocational in nature; it is definitely an academic program,” Barnes said. “Some of them are aiming toward college, others may go straight into the workforce, but they realize that they want their high school diploma and it is important to them.”

To make the program possible for the students who need this type of academic atmosphere, the school district pays $5,200 per year, per student from an Alternative Challenge Grant. Students may enter the program on an as-needed basis throughout the school year.

From the Strongsville Post.