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Pinkerton Academy relocating alternative learning program, proposing new driveway

Union Leader Correspondent

September 20. 2018 11:08PM
Pinkerton Hall on the campus of Pinkerton Academy. (Courtesy)

DERRY — Pinkerton Academy received approval to relocate its alternative learning program to a house on Tsienneto Road. Soon, it will present plans to build a new driveway near the house that leads into the east section of the campus.

The Alternative Learning Center administered by Ombudsman Educational Services serves 40 students who need special accommodations to learn at their own pace and apart from the larger campus for various reasons, including medical, academic, behavioral or attendance issues.

Ombudsman Regional Director Brannigan Burstein said the students work through the same curriculum as the rest of Pinkerton students but for three hours a day over five days. She said students often can’t work within the traditional seven-hour school day because of issues like anxiety, migraine disorders or recovery from recent surgery.

“They’re able to go at the pacing they need,” Burstein said.

They had been located at the building at 10 A St., which is now the site of Tupelo Music Hall, but interim Headmaster Timothy Powers said the school wanted to bring the program a little closer to campus for logistical reasons.

Pinkerton is renovating a house at 31 Tsienneto Road that will house the student programs moving forward. Work is expected to be completed over the next few weeks.

The school also bought two other houses in the same area but Powers said they haven’t decided how those will be used.

The school received Planning Board approval earlier this month to repurpose the house, after obtaining a zoning variance.

Powers said a school counselor based on campus would be able to more easily reach the students as needed, either in crisis situations or just to help with career planning.

Burstein said it would make it easier for students to travel to the campus. There are courses Ombudsman doesn’t offer that the students still have to take at the campus such as certain language classes, lab sciences, automotive, welding, electrical, culinary and construction classes.

Engineering work on a new driveway on Tsienneto Road is being done now by civil engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, Powers said.

No driveway plans have been presented to the Planning Board yet. But Powers said he wants to do the driveway construction during this school year. The new driveway would give drivers access to the eastern side of the campus near the athletic fields. He said the main goal is to provide “safe and secure” egress, and an easier access point for fire and police departments.

Burstein said Ombudsman, which is a national company, has had the contract with Pinkerton since 2009 and is one of only two sites they operate in New Hampshire. The other is “Lakeside Academy” with Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro.

Burstein said the program at Pinkerton has gone through some changes over the years, including how it’s been perceived.

“Our reputation used to be that we got the quote-unquote bad kids,” Burstein said.

But that’s not true, she said.

It’s also not a special education or a Section 504 federal disability program, Powers said.

Most recently, the program adopted Common Core State Standards in 2016, Burstein said.

There is often a waitlist for students to get into the program, Burstein said, but she said she usually gets each additional student — about five on average — into the program every year.

The Alternative Learning Center has been located on campus since the start of the school year. Currently, the program’s students are based in the science building, which Burstein said works out fairly well because it gets less traffic than other buildings.

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