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Howard S. Billings High School in Châteauguay cuts specialized program for students

With only a week left before students return to class, Howard S. Billings high school in Châteauguay announced it has cancelled its specialized alternative program. As Global’s Brayden Jagger Haines reports, the cut leaves parents and students with some uncertainty.

A specialized alternative program that supports 25 students in grades 10 and 11 is being cut at Howard S. Billings High School in Châteauguay.

Collin Thomas, the school’s principal, says the difficult decision to cancel the Directions Alternative program comes right as the school year begins because the school had waited in hopes of being able to save it.

However, it did not have enough staffing or money to hire new teachers for the program, according to Thomas.

“We did not have enough to manage all of the programming in the school,” he said.

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Students and their parents were informed of the move in a notice issued earlier this week by the school on Montreal’s South Shore.

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“Providing the service of an alternative education to a select clientele of Grade 10 and 11 students has simply become too costly for the system, given our current reality,” it states.

Directions Alternative was created to give an extra boost to students who need support outside of a traditional classroom setting. The program was offered for more than 20 years, and the school says it had a high success rate.

Chase Glover-Kirby, a former student who took part in the program, says he’s shocked to learn it will no longer exist. Directions Alternative provided a smaller classroom setting where teachers and staff could directly bond with students, he added.

“For students who struggle with learning, I feel it’s a better place for them,” he said.

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However, Thomas says students who were part of the program will continue to receive the services they need.

“We have a battery of support services, social work technicians, specialists and counsellors that can help with academics,” he said. “We are going to keep a close eye on these students and put measures in place so we don’t end up falling into a situation.”

The academic year starts next Tuesday.

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— With files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines

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