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Night school provides alternative learning environment

Junior+D%E2%80%99Andre+Moats+works+with+teacher+Melissa+Thurman%09+during+night+school.+%E2%80%9C%5BNight+school%5D+is+more+interaction%2C%E2%80%9D+Moats+said.+%E2%80%9CIf+you+would+like+a+teacher+in+front+of+you%2C+helping+you+a+lot+more%2C+I+would+recommend+night+school.%E2%80%9D
Junior D’Andre Moats works with teacher Melissa Thurman	 during night school. “[Night school] is more interaction,” Moats said. “If you would like a teacher in front of you, helping you a lot more, I would recommend night school.”

Junior D’Andre Moats works with teacher Melissa Thurman during night school. “[Night school] is more interaction,” Moats said. “If you would like a teacher in front of you, helping you a lot more, I would recommend night school.”

Noah Siderhurst

Noah Siderhurst

Junior D’Andre Moats works with teacher Melissa Thurman during night school. “[Night school] is more interaction,” Moats said. “If you would like a teacher in front of you, helping you a lot more, I would recommend night school.”

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It’s 2:35 p.m. and students stream out of the building, some headed home, others to after school activities. But for junior D’Andre Moats and 32 others who attend night school, the day is just about to start.

“I have a job and stuff, so I can go to work and then come in here and put in three hours and still get as much work done as I do in day school,” Moats said.

Students move to night school for a variety of reasons including work schedules, health issues, because BSA classes are full and/or because of behavior problems, but administrator Lynda Blackwell thinks that people tend to focus undue attention on the behavior reason. In fact, according to Blackwell, most students in night school are not there because of behavior infractions.

“A lot of times there’s a stigma. [People in day school] think it’s all students who are the ‘bad’ students. It’s not,” Blackwell said. “I wish people wouldn’t judge night school.”

Usually, if students are put in night school from day school, the goal is to work their way back to day school. However, for some students that isn’t actually the best path.

“Sometimes those students find that they’re really successful in night school and they decide they’d like to stay,” Blackwell said. “We give kids that option. Our goal is to get to graduation and have them be successful. If it’s better in night school then we let them do that.”

In Moats’ case, after originally being sent to night school for trouble in day school, he decided to stay. And because the night school environment allows him to work at his own pace, he can actually get more done in three hours of night school than he did in seven hours of day school.

“You really don’t have to worry about all the drama,” Moats said.

The extra time during the day lets him watch his little brother while his mom works and leaves time for him to work as well. In addition, he plans to graduate early.

“It lets you do a little more throughout the day because you only have to come to school for three hours,” Moats said. “Then at the same time, it’s all you. Nobody’s rushing you here, nobody’s trying to hurry up and get you out of here. It’s your own pace, you work how hard you want to work.”

Despite the amount of good night school has done for him, Moats still feels the stigma directed at it and hopes that can change.

“The only part I don’t like about it is that people look at it as we’re bad kids down here,” Moats said. “We’re not bad, we just need a little bit more help than others… I hope that it gets bigger, [so that] people can come if [they] need more help instead of it just being, ‘You got in trouble, we need you to go down to night school.’”

Another issue is inclusion. Often times, says Blackwell, it is difficult to keep night school students involved in all the events around the school.

“When the Red Sea shirts got passed out last year, we made sure that we got shirts for our students,” Blackwell said. “Obviously they’re not here for pep rallies and assemblies and stuff like that, so there are parts that you do feel left out on.”

Moats wishes that it was easier to attend sporting events, which often happen while students are still in night school (which ends at 6:00 p.m.).

“I just feel like we’re segregated [from day school],” Moats said. “To me, it almost is like a little jail, for real.”

Even if it seems separated from the rest of the school, that doesn’t stop a unique environment from forming, although there are still challenges.

“Because it’s such a small environment, you don’t have that big social group like you do in regular day school, so that part’s hard. We, as far as the staff, get really close with the students though because it is a small group,” Blackwell said. “[The staff] try to make up for some of that with relationships that we form with them. It’s not exactly the same as your peers.”

With only 33 students to eight adults, Moats has gotten to know the night school staff very well.

“Mrs. Thurman and Mrs. Blackwell, those are my rocks in the school,” Moats said. “If I need anything, those are the two I go to.”

All 1,769 students in the building during day school, Blackwell believes, make it harder to really get to know people. Whereas in night school, if students are willing to open up (which not everyone is according to Blackwell), real connections can be made.

“I get to know them and hear about their lives and have a lot of conversations with them,” Blackwell said. “You get to know people more individually instead of just being that mass rush of people.”

For Moats, it’s a similar feeling. Less drama, more serenity.

“It’s a lot quieter than day school,” Moats said. “Day school is a lot more people. Night school is a select few people so it’s quiet.”

Whether it’s the relaxed, more personal environment or the work-at-your-own-pace academic structure, Blackwell has seen the effects of night school on many students, including Moats.

“His personality is just different in night school,” Blackwell said. “Because it’s small and a more intimate setting as far as getting to know people, it’s a calmer setting for a lot of kids, so it’s just an easier environment to be in overall.”

And for teachers, it can actually be more rewarding.

“You see a lot of growth in the students, which you do in day school too, but because you know the students really well and because it’s a small environment, you notice a lot of the more subtle changes that sometimes we miss in day school,” Blackwell said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Blackwell points to one specific story that illustrates how fulfilling the work can be. It started a few years ago when a student with a rocky home life was placed in night school as an eighth grader.

“[The student] hated school, hated all of us. [She] resented being here in night school,” Blackwell said. “Of course, everyone else was older than her, so she didn’t really fit in with that group either.”

Blackwell decided to take her on one to one, and the student turned it around.

“She did not want to come back to day school because she realized that she didn’t want to be involved in some other stuff again, so she made the choice to stay in night school and she graduated and walked across the stage with a diploma,” Blackwell said. “I was extremely proud… She was the first student in her family to go through high school.”

For Blackwell, this isn’t a rare occurrence.

“There’s been a number of those, it happens a lot,” Blackwell said, “and it’s very emotional for us when we see that happen.”

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