The Fergus Falls Public School District is very unique for its size. We offer a traditional school experience, an opportunity for a targeted environmental education experience through the Prairie Science Classroom, a full K-12 virtual learning option (iQ Academy) and an alternative learning center (ALC). This column will focus on the ALC.
Alternative learning centers (ALCs) in Minnesota were established in the 1970s as an alternative approach to education for students who were struggling in traditional school settings. The intention was to provide students with a more individualized and flexible education plan, tailored to their unique needs and circumstances.
The first ALC in Minnesota opened in 1970, and the first state funding for ALCs was provided in 1976. Since then, the number of ALCs in Minnesota has grown significantly, with more than 200 ALCs in operation today. Fergus Falls has had some type of state approved alternative education since 1982, so the district has a little experience in this area!
ALCs in Minnesota serve a range of students, including those who have fallen behind academically, those who have experienced disruption in their educational experience, or for those who are simply seeking a different learning environment. ALCs offer a variety of educational options, including credit recovery, project-based learning, real-world applications, digital curriculum, and vocational and technical training.
Our goal is to provide students with an education that meets their needs and prepares them for success in the future. We try to cap enrollment at around 95 students. This is due to staffing and space limitations, but also safeguards our ability to form strong personal connections with each of our students.
I had the opportunity to meet with a group of students who attend our ALC and are members of the ALC Advisory Board. Each of these students were thoughtful and articulate – and eager to share how the ALC environment has supported their personal and academic growth. They wanted people to know that the ALC can be the perfect fit for some students. It came as no surprise that these students were really just searching for a school experience that fostered connections and a sense of belonging. The students found that at the ALC. One of the advantages of offering several learning options is allowing students freedom to choose the model that best supports their learning.