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Peabody High set to begin alternative ed program

Posted by Justin Rice  January 31, 2012 10:40 AM

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The Peabody School Committee and the Peabody Public Schools will hold a grand opening celebration for its new NovaNET Lab and Peabody Alternative Night School Program at 3 p.m. on Monday in the Peabody Veterans Memorial High School Library (485 Lowell St.).

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from Peabody-based Analogic Corporation, the high school has developed a multifaceted program targeted toward students who have dropped out of school or are in danger of doing so. The program allows the students to make up credits in the school library’s new NovaNET Lab.

“And it will give the kids an opportunity to get a Peabody High School diploma as opposed to going into the GED program,” Peabody High Principal Ed Sapienza said during an interview this morning.

He said the day credit recovering portion of the program will allow students to retake courses virtually that they might have failed in the past, while the evening part of the program will re-attract students back into high school.

“This will attract kids who maybe dropped out or have fallen behind and think it’s hopeless,” Sapienza said. “Or maybe kids who are in danger aging out because they are close to 21-years-old and will soon no longer be eligible for public education.

“These might be kids with special circumstances, legitimate reasons why they can’t attend a day program.”

Peabody High has about a 79.6 graduation rate, according to Sapienza.

“So we are experiencing 50 to 70 students a year, for whatever reason, dropping out,” he said, noting that the district opened an alternative school at the North Shore Mall two years ago that currently has a waiting list.

He said the alternative night school program will allow the students to work at their own pace as well as work a job during the day for credit.

The Analogic donation allowed the school to buy the furniture, 15 computer stations and software for the new lab.

“That was a tremendous boost to the program,” Sapienza said. “This is just another attempt to try to work on our dropout rate and try to improve upon it.”

But Sapienza said he didn’t need President Obama’s call for a mandate that students not be allowed to drop out  to know this is the right thing to do. He said he’s been working on the program for three years.  

“I believe it’s the responsible thing to do,” he said. “I don’t necessarily need the President of the United States to tell me that given this economy and having the kind of competition there is going to be for jobs it would be rather foolish to ignore your education.  

“As team we’re going forward with this and getting the community involved and great community support from Analogic helps us out."

Sapienza said about 12 students are already signed up and the program and three staff members are assigned to it as well.

“Hopefully starting on Monday after the ribbon cutting we’ll be officially up and running,” he said.

Justin A. Rice can be reached at

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