Teachers and students are able to work one-on-one to enable student progress at STAR Outreach School in Leduc.
For those requiring a more flexible schedule, an outreach school is exactly what some students in Leduc need to complete their high school education.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Division (STAR) Outreach School is an alternative for students where they can work at their own pace. The program allows students to complete courses independently at home, work or school through self-directed learning.
"Our school is needed in order to provide Catholic senior high school education outside of the traditional school setting," said Mike Malloy, vice-principal of STAR Catholic Outreach. He is also the off-campus education coordinator.
Outreach works well for students who need a flexible schedule, with the program allowing them to choose a working environment that suits their individual learning style.
"Our school is a non-attendance facility. We try to structure the program to fit the student. Students review the course with their teachers, pick up resources and work on their material independently or with support from the teachers," said Malloy.
If students require assistance, he said they are more than welcome to come down to the school to receive one-on-one instruction from their teacher.
It also differs from most typical high schools in that it is open until 6 p.m. two evenings per week, and it operates on a year-round calendar, remaining open through most of the summer.
Students attending STAR Outreach tend to do so because they want to learn in a more independent manner and do not work well in a regular classroom setting. Independent learning means a student takes responsibility for his or her own education.
"Our school is appropriate for students who wish to upgrade, fast-track, are working, have commitments outside of school or for those for home a traditional setting does not meet their current needs or situation," explained Malloy.
A student requires 20 high school courses to graduate. Most courses contain seven modules. Therefore, a student needs to complete and pass about 140 high school modules.
Completing three modules a week, a student can attain a high school diploma in one year. Taking the summer off or completing fewer modules per month will, of course, mean a longer timeline for graduation.
Students hand in their completed course work during regular school hours, either at STAR Outreach or Christ the King School. Teachers use technology to communicate with their students.
The school has not been without accomplishments in the short time that it's been open.
"We will be celebrating our fourth graduation this spring. We are in our second year of operating on a year-round calendar, and we saw a record number of courses completed last year," said Malloy.
"Our very successful off-campus program has resulted in a large number of students who have been recognized with Registered Apprenticeship Program Scholarships."
The outreach school has an excellent working relationship with Christ the King Catholic High School in Leduc, and several students actually attend both schools. The outreach school also offers courses to students in the other two Catholic high schools in the STAR division.
The rules in the STAR Catholic Outreach School are simple. Anyone behaving in a disrespectful or disruptive manner will be asked to leave. As well, in order to ensure a clean and comfortable environment, students are expected to keep their work area free from garbage and graffiti.
As a Catholic school, faith is an important component. A pastoral assistant from St. Michael's Parish maintains regular hours at the school to provide students with on-site spiritual assistance and support.
"A great deal of the Catholicity at our school comes through our staff members modeling our faith within the one-on-one relationships we develop with students. We pride ourselves on creating a warm, faith-filled and welcoming environment for all - regardless of where they are on their journey," said Malloy.
Other areas of faith formation include religious education courses, morning prayer, staff retreats, symbols of faith on display throughout the facility, staff members taking graduate courses at Newman Theological College, and an ongoing social justice project called Be the Change.