WALLINGFORD — Rooms that once housed the school system’s Central Office at Sheehan High School have been converted into small classrooms for students and staff of the alternative high school program.
The alternative high school was located in an office building at 43 Hall Ave. since 2001. During the summer, the program swapped locations with the Central Office — a move prompted by security and safety concerns.
Once students get off the buses in the morning, they enter the alternative high school wing from a side entrance. From there, they meet with teachers in a computer lab, which was once the office space for School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo and his administrative assistants.
The students’ day consists of hour-long classes, which are held in three smaller classrooms, according to Vicki Gustavson, the program’s Math and English teacher. Each class is set up differently — Gustavson’s resembles a traditional classroom with tables and chairs in the middle of the room. Christopher Nuzzo’s room, where he teaches Math and Social Sciences, consists mainly of couches for seating. Michael Lavoie’s science classroom consists of tables as well as an eye wash station.
There’s also a library and kitchen area, where students can make food and take a break. And for the first time, students have lockers. There are also enough computers for each student to use in the lab, and enough room for them to move around and do their work without bumping into each other — a common issue in the old computer lab.
Moving into Sheehan provided many benefits, according to Paul Flinter, the director of the alternative high school program. In addition to having the security and safety features, the new space is larger. Lavoie said his new classroom is about twice the size of his old classroom.
“There’s enough room for the students to actually do experiments,” he said. Being in Sheehan, Gustavson said, allows students to use the gym. Prior to the switch, the students had to take a bus to another facility for physical education, she said.
As they prepared to move from Hall Avenue to Sheehan, both Gustavson and Flinter had concerns. Most students in the program — there are 24 total — are from the Lyman Hall High School side of town, so there were concerns about attendance, Flinter said.
“We were moving farther away to a place that was not central to both schools,” he said.
The program develops “selfesteem, improving interpersonal skills and instilling a sense of moral and ethical values within the students,” according to the alternative high school ‘s website.
Bill Shortell, the program’s technology coordinator, added staff worried if students would want to take the bus or not. Despite the hesitations, Shortell said students have been “enthusiastic to take the bus,” and have been attending school. Because it’s “a new facility, they’re proud of it” and excited to come to school, Lavoie said.
“I’ve had my doubts,” Gustavson said, “but the students have adjusted well.”