Twenty Oak Park and River Forest High School students were placed at two off-campus learning centers this past fall. School officials, however, have had very preliminary talks about whether a “small school” concept would work on campus to help struggling students.

Harbor Academy on 6525 North Ave. in Oak Park, and Ombudsman, whose classes take place at 3326 N. Harlem in Chicago, have been the school’s primary off-campus sites for several years. Students with academic and behavioral problems, including those who are expelled, are eligible for outplacement. Twelve students attended Harbor and eight were placed at Ombudsman last fall. This number, though, is much smaller than in previous years, down from as many as 41 students in 2009-2010 and 30 last year

Another concern with outplacements, officials said, is the number of minorities who are outplaced. All of those placed off-campus this past fall were minority students, the vast majority of those black students.

Phillip Prale, OPRF’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the high school is creating additional supports for kids on campus, including increased time in subjects like math and reading.

“We’re trying to have more minutes in core areas,” he said, adding that the school is looking at locations in the building to create, “commons areas” where students can receive more individualized attention. The school, however, he says, is a long way from implementing a school-within-a-school model.

“Dr. [Superintendent Steven] Isoye and I have had a couple of conversations around it. It’s a big leap,” Prale said. “We’re not at a place where we’re going to have a school within a school. That might come out of strategic planning as a question we might want to consider.”

OPRF will undertake a strategic planning process beginning this fall. 

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