NORWAY — One size doesn’t fit all at the Streaked Mountain School.

“It’s a small setting for kids with large personalities,” said Jason Trask, who has directed the Oxford Hills School District alternative high school education program since 2001. The off-site alternative education program provides the incentive for as many as 40 more students to graduate each year, he said.

“We work with some of the most intelligent and creative kids in the district, and that’s true of students in the daily programs as well as those in the drop-in program. Some of our students come from extremely difficult home lives and they don’t necessarily leave their troubles at the door. Despite all of the great teachers and administrators at the high school, the fact is, the place is so large that it requires rules that are one-size-fits-all,” he said. “Not all kids do well under those circumstances, and that’s where Streaked comes in.”

For years, the school district had an effective alternative education program housed in the annex of the Rowe Elementary School in Norway, focusing on freshmen and sophomores, Trask said. By around 1998, a number of teachers were talking about an off-site program that would focus on juniors and seniors.

“Our reason for wanting the program to be off-site was that there were — and are — a number of students who don’t do well in a large school setting. There are too many distractions in such a big environment for some kids to be able to focus. Others need a more personal touch,” Trask said. He and Vanessa Greeley work with with dozens of students throughout the school year.

With the support of then Superintendent Mark Eastman, the idea to move the program off-site and gear it toward the older students moved forward.

Four years ago, the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors approved moving the program to the then vacant former Lower Primary School on Main Street in Norway. The 159-year-old building known as the little yellow schoolhouse was refurbished.

Until recently, the Streaked Mountain School building remained somewhat anonymous. Last week, the students hung a large red, white and blue sign on the front of the building publicly identifying the Streaked Mountain School for the first time.

A $4,000 grant from the district paid for the sign, plus three new computers, a printer and materials for the students’ garden program. Second-year students in Virginia Valdes’ graphic designs class at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris worked on the design submitted by Trask. It includes a mountain in the background. The Sign Store & Flag Center in Auburn printed it.

The sign, which was framed and hung by Shawn Kane, did more than just identify the building; it announced the pride the students and staff have in the successful program.

“If it weren’t for here, I wouldn’t have graduated,” said Cort McCutcheon, who will leave for basic training in the U.S. Army after graduation June 8. The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School was just “too big” for his needs, he said.

“This is so much better,” said student Kati Heath, the mother of an 8-month-old son. “Here it’s more relaxed. I know so many kids do so much more here.”

Because the work is independent and geared toward completing credit work, the program can be more flexible than the traditional high school study program, Trask said.

“If we ran them as classes, everyone would literally have to be on the same page. The thing is, that’s exactly what many of our students had issues with when they were at the high school,” he said. “…We’re able to tailor our curriculum for each student.”

Shania Pike of Paris, the mother of a 3-month-old baby, said without the program she would probably not still be in school.

“I wasn’t getting very far in high school,” said Pike, who occasionally brings her baby to school rather than miss a day because of a lack of childcare. 

“They come and get you,” she chuckled of the times she may be late and someone would find her and bring her to school. The junior hopes to become an animal cruelty investigator after college.

Zach Tirrell, 18, of Hebron, said his experience in the one-room schoolhouse has been “fantastic.” He hopes to attend college in Canada. “These are really great people.”

The students say they want others to know of the program and the benefits they can get from the alternative education program.

“We all know we’re not bad people,” Heath said.

Trask puts it simply: “Streaked students tend to march to the beat of their own drum.”

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