An alternative high school, offering a combined work-study program for Montgomery County students who are considered "too disruptive" to attend regular county schools, is scheduled to start classes this fall, County Executive James P. Gleason announced yesterday.
The school will enroll students with severe truancy records or with drug problems and severe emotional problems, or with juvenile police records, according to Dr. Richard Towers, co-ordinator of the county's alternative schools program.
Towers described the school as a "last ditch effort to help these kids before they get into some kind of legal trouble, become dropouts or worse."
In addition to receiving insturction in English, math, the social sciences and other basic school subjects, the 20 students at the Kingsley Wilderness School - in the northermost part of the county - will work part of the day on developing the Little Bennett Park Regional Park in Clarksburg. This is a wilderness at the moment, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission has decided to make it a park.
Towers said that the staff at Kingsley School will be trained to guide the students in landscaping the park, constructing smill bridges and dams where necessary, and in developing nature trails and campsites.
The main idea behind alternative schools, Towers said, is to lower the student-teacher ratio so that each student may get individualized help from the teachers and may work a this or her own pace.
Counselors will also be placed on the staff Kingsley since many students suffer from emotional and family problems which contribute to their learning difficulties, Towers said.
"Mainly what we're talking about is an attempt to get to these kids before they wind up in juvenile court," Towers said. "There will be a great deal of emphasis on group counseling . . . teaching them to cope with frustration and with authority figures."
Towers said some of the students who are placed in alternatives schools are "very bright, but are either turned off and totally bored by school, or they have personal problems."
There are two other alternative schools in Montgomery County, but neither of them offer a combination work-study program.
The Kingsley School, Towers said, will stress teaching students to function in a work setting, since each student will have a specific task to perform at the Park and will receive an hourly wage for the week.
School officials decided to call the Kingsley School a "wilderness school" since the philosophy of wilderness instruction stresses the "pitting oneself against a person," according to Towers.
The Kingsley school will be located in a one-room schoolhouse which is a 180-year-old landmark in Upper Montgomery County. The alternative program is made possible through a $11,000 grant from the Governor's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, a spokesman for the county executive said.The school, which is not a residential facility, will be coeducational.
The other alternative schools in Montgomery County are the Chautauqua School in Glen Park, and the Area II alternative school, housed in the Long Branch Recreation Center in Takoma Park. Towers said that a majority of the county's secondary schools offer some sort of alternative learning program but these on-site programs are mainly directed at students who need remedial help and can function within the confines of a traditional school.