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Pioneer Alternative High School rebranded and is now known as the Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer

PHOTO COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
 - Students at the Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer complete school work at the rebranded facility.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited what the Crook County School District can offer, it has also opened the door for new education options.

The most recent example is the launch of a reimagined alternative school for high school students. When the Oregon Department of Education announced new exceptions for opening small and rural schools in Oregon this past summer, Pioneer High School – which has traditionally functioned as an alternative school – jumped at the chance to revamp its mission and offer more opportunities for local high school students. It rebranded and is now known as the Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer or HLC.

The closure of schools last spring and the move to distance learning due to the COVID pandemic caused some high school students to fall behind in credits. Since HLC has fewer than 250 students, the school falls under the state's small school exception and was able to open on Sept. 9 for in-person instruction.

"HLC saw an opportunity to serve more students, and especially seniors, who needed some extra help with credits so they can graduate on time next spring," explained HLC Principal Pete Goodrich. "We're moving beyond the stigma that often comes with alternative schools and offering a learning environment that offers a more personalized approach with built-in flexibility."

While HLC focuses on credit recovery, graduation and access to GEDs, the school is also open to students who may not thrive in the traditional high school setting. The classes are smaller, there's more one-on-one support, and the hybrid schedules affords older students, such as juniors and seniors, the opportunity to work and attend school.

"There are two cohorts (or groups) of students, and each group is here for half of the day Monday through Thursday in a morning or afternoon session, and then everyone learns online from home on Fridays. Some high school students prefer a more flexible model," Goodrich said.

Enrollment at the local alternative school has averaged about 50 students each school year, but that number has climbed to 98 during HLC's first year.

Current student Joey Guarino is happy with his decision to move to HLC at Pioneer.

"The high school (CCHS) just wasn't a good fit, so I got behind in credits," he said. "Pioneer is a good recovery school, and I also like the flexibility to be able to manage other schedules like work."

School District Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson recently announced that in-person education for grades 4-12 are expected to continue locally for the foreseeable future. But if the school district is forced by the state to move those grades back to Comprehensive Distance Learning, HLC will still be allowed to stay open for in-person instruction under the small school exception. And educators hope this will ensure students stay engaged, continue to receive personalized help from teachers and maintain credits to graduate in the spring.


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