Judy Espinoza, an assistant instructor with the Moffat County Alternative School, shows the school’s new classroom Thursday at the district’s administration building at 775 Yampa Ave. Classes had previously been held at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Judy Espinoza, an assistant instructor with the Moffat County Alternative School, shows the school’s new classroom Thursday at the district’s administration building at 775 Yampa Ave. Classes had previously been held at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

Moffat County Alternative School moves locations

A cluster of worktables with two rows of computers sits empty now, but once the school year begins, students exploring their educational options will be using the station.

The Moffat County Alternative School, an educational program for Moffat County School District students who require a schedule and teachers tailored to their needs, will be starting the school year in a new location.

The school is moving from the Boys & Girls Club of Craig to the second floor of the school district administration building at 775 Yampa Ave.

The new learning space includes a regular classroom and a computer lab.

Moffat County High School Principal Thom Schnellinger said the move from the Boys & Girls Club was necessary because the program “outgrew the facility.”

“We’ve had good relations with them, but we’ve reached our growth potential there,” he said.

Schnellinger said by moving to the administration building, the alternative school will not have to work around the Boys & Girls Club’s schedule, which includes afternoons dedicated to younger children who use the facility.

“Now there are more possibilities for our own after-school activities, and we don’t have to clear out of there at 3 (p.m.) every day,” Schnellinger said. “We’ll miss having the gym, but it’s a better fit.”

A better fit is one of the main objectives of the alternative school, which began in 2004 as a way to reach out to students.

Originally conceived as the Youth Experiencing Success program, the school received grant money from the Colorado Department of Education.

Christine Villard, school district assistant superintendent, wrote the grant proposal.

“It was a four-year grant that was eventually phased out, but the program became sustainable by itself because of the number of students we got,” Villard said. “We’re saving money now by not having to pay rent to the Boys & Girls Club, so that went to getting some of the computers. The rest were allocated from the school district.”

The district is currently accepting applications for the alternative school. Prospective students must go through an interview process to determine their individual education needs and details such as disciplinary history. Students with children or part-time jobs also receive consideration for their daily schedule.

Alternative school teacher Karen Chaney said the program is often misinterpreted as being a place for troublemakers rather than an option for students needing different kinds of attention.

“It’s gradually getting more and more acceptable to people,” she said.

Chaney said the closer proximity to downtown Craig will allow staff and students to get involved in the community and possibly start some service projects. She added that the new environment and the more traditional classroom setup will give students “more of a sense of identity and feel more like it’s their school.”

Chaney’s excitement about the new development for the alternative school is mutual among other staff members. Judy Espinoza, an aide for the program, said she’s looking forward to working in the new building in the fall.

“I love this job, it’s so fulfilling” Espinoza said.

Espinoza, who has worked for the alternative school for three years, said the program was quite a bit different from her job working as an aide for a second-grade class in Delta.

“It’s a lot easier to relate to teenagers,” she said.

Espinoza said one of the things she likes about the position is getting more involved with the students. Last year, she provided her pupils with a Christmas dinner that she hosted at her home.

“We try to create a family feeling,” she said.

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