Middle school students to be eligible for alternative placement
SOUTHBRIDGE — Southbridge Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent Jeffrey A. Villar will be moving his offices to Southbridge Middle High School as part of a plan to expand alternative placement opportunities for middle school students.
In a press release issued on Friday afternoon, Villar announced Southbridge Academy, a licensed therapeutic day school founded in 2018, would expand to include students in grades 6, 7, and 8. Southbridge Academy is “designed for students that historically do not make progress in a traditional setting.” Despite the alternative setting, students enrolled in the program fall under the same requirements as traditional students in terms of MCAS and credit requirements for a high school diploma.
Southbridge Academy Principal Desiree Chumsantivut has pledged to provide incoming middle school students with a helping hand in the becoming productive citizens as young adults.
“My goal is to ensure students graduate from Southbridge Academy college and career ready,” Chumsantivut said in a statement. “We will work closely with the students, staff, and families to ensure our middle and high school students have the tools necessary for success.”
Villar’s announcement touts “the success of the High School program” as the impetus to expand offerings to middle school students. Facilities will be prepared for the expansion in the coming months, allowing for “a limited number of openings” to be filled in the spring.
As part of the expansion, Villar and a number of other central office staff will leave their offices at the former high school on Cole Avenue and take up residence at Southbridge Middle High School on Torrey Road. According to the press release, central office staff — including the offices of the superintendent, human resources, and finance — will help clear the space needed to accommodate additional students and staff.
“Focusing on secondary education is vital,” Villar said in a statement. “Spending more time at Southbridge Middle High School gives my administrative team an opportunity to work closely with building leadership on initiatives to improve the educational experience of Southbridge students.”
Villar promises ‘a truly individualized educational experience’
According to the announcement, the goal of Southbridge Academy is “to help students become successful by coupling high academic rigor with a focus on each student’s strengths, to ensure a truly individualized educational experience.”
Southbridge Academy has previously admitted high school students in grades 9-12. Villar’s statement asserts those students “benefit from smaller classes, individualized care teams, and a high staff to student ratio.” The therapeutic day program also includes work-study and credit recovery offerings, as well as individual counseling on site. Students are also eligible to participate in extracurricular activities based at Southbridge Middle High School, including sports and after-school clubs.
Officials also announced an open house for Southbridge Academy is in the works for the spring. All Southbridge residents will be invited to take a tour of the facilities and meet with staff.