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Small environment maximizes learning

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An alternative school in Burlington is giving students a more intimate setting for learning.

Horizons School has 40 students, 7 faculty members both full and part time, and a budget of $318,000 dollars.

Kathy St. Andrews used to struggle with anxiety at a large high school. But now, she has found her place.

"It really helps people with anxiety with big crowds, and everybody knows each other, and everyone just gets along here its really cool," St. Andrews said.

Taking up just one hallway in the downtown Taft Building, Horizons is an alternative school that's part of the Burlington School District. And with a maximum of 40 students, they say they are like a family.

Horizons is made up of mostly Burlington students but accepts students from other parts of Chittenden County too.

"Typically it is students who are really creative and really bright. They know what they need from their school program, and often they are the ones who have gone to their school counselor and said I need something different," said director Lynn Kennedy.

Jason Reed is Horizons's only full time teacher. He calls it an alternative school with traditional learning models. Students are taught the same curriculum and have to meet the same standards as Burlington High School.

Reed's social studies class is working on some local history while utilizing their English lesson on adjectives.

But the atmosphere at Horizons is different. You wont hear any bells telling students class is over, and teachers go by first names.

"Our actions as faculty and staff never say, because you call us by our first name, because it is a little casual like that, that what I ask you to do in terms of your learning is not important, and they get that message every day," Reed said.

Reed says the reasons behind the casual atmosphere are the circumstances surrounding his students outside of school. Many of them deal with what he calls life or death situations, like taking care of younger siblings and working multiple jobs to provide for their families.

"It is a nice balance, it needs to be casual. You need to see me as someone other then someone who wants to deliver social studies to you, if I don't see you in my class for a few days, I'm coming to your apartment to find you," Reed said.

While they are constantly fighting common misconceptions about alternative schools, "I think sometimes people hear alternative program and they think the worst," he said.

His students do not have behavioral, psychological or learning problems, they simply needed a smaller environment to maximize their learning.

"I see a lot of times students come in not believing that about themselves, and it's our number one focus in trying to get them to see themselves as a learner. You are capable," Reed said.

And students like Sharmarke Adan who used to not want to go to school.

"I come here a lot. At the other schools I didn't show up that much but here, I come here on a regular basis. I enjoy coming here," Sarmarke said.

Have finally found a place that is all there own.

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