(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Lindsey Hays, a 15-year-old student at New Horizons, said there are only three words to describe the old Moore Street building that housed the alternative high school.
"Cold, old and crowded," Hays said.
But this year, Hays is singing a different tune about her school -- literally.
When the Sikeston R-6 School District reorganized over the summer, one of those changes included moving the alternative school to the recently renovated West Murray Lane facility, which served as the Fifth Grade Center for years.
For students and staff, it meant more room and eating lunch in actual cafeteria. Family and consumer science classes are now offered in a classroom with a new larger kitchen.
"We're mostly under one roof, which is a blessing," principal Lynn Crader said. " It's more like a traditional school."
The building on Moore Street was one of many buildings before some were torn down.
The new location also has a playground and provides an opportunity for the physical education program to expand. A computer software program, which helps students achieve course credits, is now offered daily instead of once a week. The school also has room to have assemblies -- something they couldn't do before.
"It's a new feeling of a new beginning, a new excitement and a new outlook," Crader said.
The Sikeston Alternative Education Center houses three programs -- New Horizons High School, Bulldog Academic Resource Center (an alternative program for grades 3-8) and suspension school. Each program is housed in three pods -- A, B and C.
Most school districts have some form of an alternative program, but Sikeston R-6 provides a more comprehensive program that gives students more opportunities to stay in school, Crader said.
"Students can choose whether or not they want to attend New Horizons," Crader said.
The reasons students attend the school vary but those who attend are typically "at-risk," which is a term that has many meanings, Crader said. "Some students don't do as well with a larger crowd or someone who has health problems and got behind in school."
The school is also good for students who need a flexible schedule such as those who are working. "It really depends on what the students' needs are," Crader said.
For Hays, the road to New Horizons began in her eighth grade year, when she was having problems and attended BARC.
"Then I had the choice to go to the high school or New Horizons, and I chose New Horizons," Hays said.
Hays, who's classified as a sophomore this semester, said if it weren't for New Horizons, she'd be attending a private school or she'd be home-
"I won't go back to the regular high school. I love it here, and the teachers are amazing," Hays said.
Currently 85 students are enrolled at New Horizons -- an increase Crader credits to the move into a different building. Crader said 161 students have graduated from the high school since it first opened at the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year.
Twenty-four different courses are offered at New Horizons. New this year are music appreciation and chorus courses and choir -- something Hays was happy to take.
"I love it because my passion is singing," Hays said.
Crader said it was amazing how many students wanted to take the music courses. Twenty-seven students are enrolled in the new choral classes, he said, adding he hopes the school can add art classes in the future. Meanwhile, Hays said she'd like to change the public's negative perception of New Horizons.
"They think the kids who come here are either stupid or bad -- and that's not true," Hays said. "I'm very smart. I just choose to go here."
Crader said it will take time for the community's perceptions about the school to change. The new location also symbolizes a new beginning to help move the school and students down the path of success, he said.
"That's why I like the name of the school -- New Horizons," Crader said. "You see the sun come up, and it's a new day."