LEWISTON — After being told that students who need alternative education at the high school are being turned away because there’s no room, the Lewiston School Committee voted Monday to reclassify a new teacher’s position from art to alternative education.

The recently approved school budget had money for an additional art teacher.

“My request is to change that art position next year to a position that will help support alternative ed,” said Jake Langlais, Lewiston Middle School principal who will become the high school principal starting this fall.

High school Principal Shawn Chabot, who will soon be assistant superintendent, said 18 students are scheduled with the additional art teacher. That position has not been filled.

If the high school had one more alternative ed teacher, “we could put in 15 to 20 alternative ed students (who) desperately need a different setting,” Chabot said.

Lewiston High School is one of the largest high schools in Maine, with more than 1,400 students.

Some students don’t do well in a big-school setting, Chabot said.

Providing more room in the alternative ed program would more than likely mean those students would end up graduating from high school, Chabot said. “All too often, those are the students who fall through the cracks.”

Several School Committee members asked if students would be able to take an art class.

“My concern is that we’re going to be able to offer arts to our students,” Shannon said.

Some freshmen may not be able to take art next year, but all juniors and seniors will be accommodated, Chabot said.

Alternative ed students take classes during the day at the high school. The program is one of several to meet student needs.

There are 28 to 30 alternative ed students, and the change means the program will be able to take close to 50, Chabot said.

Meanwhile, Chabot and Langlais said they are working on plans to swap locations of two programs, the Star Academy and the high school alternative education.

The Star Academy, which is one year old, provides more support to students who struggled in the eighth grade. The one-year program gives students both eighth- and ninth-grade work in one year, with the goal they’ll be prepared for high school during their sophomore years. That program is housed at the armory next to the middle school.

Langlais and Chabot said it makes sense to move the Star Academy to the high school, and move the alternative ed program out of the high school and into an armory, the smaller setting providing students with more chance for success.

But logistically, they’re not ready to make that change, Langlais and Chabot told the committee. They’ll continue planning and report back in the fall, they said.

Superintendent Bill Webster has said that Lewiston needs its own alternative ed school, similar to Auburn’s Franklin School. One plan is that when the new elementary school opens in 2019, the then-empty Longley Elementary School would become an alternative ed school.

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