Seventh- and eighth-grade students with academic or behavior problems likely will no longer attend the Wilson Alternative Middle School next year.
Instead, the building at 5141 F St. is expected to become the new home of an Omaha focus school that had been slated to close.
The curriculum committee of the Omaha Public Schools voted unanimously on both moves Monday.
“This truly is a great day,” said Sandy Jensen, school board president.
Both proposals still need full board approval. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposals April 4.
Wilson ’s 100 students are scheduled to move to “transition rooms” in the district’s middle schools. The transition rooms are meant to give students a temporary spot to improve their behavior and academic problems.
The district’s high schools also use transition rooms. Blackburn , the district’s alternative high school, would not be affected by the proposed changes.
The Underwood Hills Focus School , 9030 Western Ave. , and the focus program at Lewis and Clark Middle School , 6901 Burt St. , had been scheduled to end after this school year because of financial problems.
Three school districts — Omaha , Elkhorn and Westside — have partnered to operate the focus school.
Recently, however, a philanthropist came forward and offered a monetary gift to keep the school open for at least three years.
OPS Superintendent John Mackiel identified that philanthropist Monday as the Sherwood Foundation. Susie Buffett is the group’s chairwoman.
“It’s one of those donors where you know the money’s good,” said Malaby Byrd, who has an 8-year-old son in third grade at the focus school.
OPS plans to operate the school on its own next year. Mackiel said students from the Westside and Elkhorn districts can choose to continue going to the school.
District officials denied moving the alternative school students back into the middle schools just to make room for the focus school. They said the plan has been in the works for several years and came together this year as part of a $1.2 million cost-cutting proposal that also involved adult education programs.
“We didn’t move students from Wilson so we’d have an empty building,” Jensen said.
The focus school’s academic focus is “leadership through technology and communication.” The school has about 160 students in third through sixth grades. It has an extended calendar and longer school days.
The committee also was scheduled to vote on eliminating the district’s adult education courses and GED-prep classes but delayed that decision Monday.
The district spends $267,000 on its GED program. OPS funds the rest of the program with $290,000 in grants, said Ken Spellman, the district’s career education coordinator.
Three citizens asked the committee to keep the program, which typically enrolls between 750 and 1,000 people. About 200 people annually complete their GED through the program.
“We have a lot of people who need a GED in Omaha ,” said John Gallion, coordinator for adult learners at the Educational Opportunity Center at Creighton University .
The committee voted 4-2 to delay a vote on the proposal, with Jensen and board member Freddie Gray opposed.
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