Franklin County learning center engages students serving suspensions

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) - While students get into the groove of a new school year, a special program in Franklin County is hoping to help every kid stay on track and succeed.

After a successful pilot year, the Secondary Learning Center is once again providing an alternative to a suspension program.

You wouldn’t expect empty desks on the first day of school, but in Franklin County this isn’t your typical classroom.

“I had a student come over here with D’s and F’s and she left here after about 30 days with A’s and B’s,” School Coordinator Susan Badger said.

Badger is hoping to celebrate similar successes this year.

“I am excited I like seeing the kids every day,” Badger said.

Instead of missing class, students who face suspension work with Badger and a handful of other teachers to continue their work.

“If a student is suspended or not present at school they do not have access to the curriculum or instruction, if that’s ten days, three days, it’s a long time,” Badger said.

Not only does the center allow students to continue studying, but it also gives them tools to learn from their mistakes.

“We are incorporating art therapy to give them some meditation time and we are going to have restorative circles where the students learn it is a safe environment to have certain discussions,” she said.

The program also helps the district avoid chronic absenteeism.

Last year, they served more than 260 students and saved the school district about 1,800 days of absences.

This school year the program is slated to get about $175,000. Badger said that money is helping invest in the future of these students and allowing teachers to focus on the curriculum instead of discipline in their classrooms.

Students in the middle school and high school are able to serve anywhere from 3-45 days in the Learning Center.

The Franklin County School Board met Monday to discuss the success and future goals of the program.

Badger said she hopes eventually students who succeed in the small classrooms could choose to keep studying in that environment.