Pathways to open new school for expelled students

Pathways Adolescent Center of Oil City is opening a new school Monday for boys in seventh to 12th grades who have been expelled from public schools in Venango and Clarion counties.

The school can offer a “reset” and give the boys the support and education they need to get back on their feet, said Ian Bialo, director of operations at Pathways.

“We have had some schools bring up the lack of options they have to be able to deal with kids who are struggling,” said Bialo. “This is an option for (public schools) to be able to utilize,” he added.

When students are expelled from public school, they are often placed in cyber education, said Bialo. But this isn’t always a good fit for students.

When a student is expelled, “something is happening at home that is causing them to lash out in school,” said Bialo.

“When kids are cyber schooled they are more likely to be left home alone, so they are more likely to be involved with crimes and drugs,” said Bialo.

In addition to having less supervision, students may have a hard time learning without in-person education.

“From the pandemic, we have learned that kids do well with face-to-face instruction,” said Bialo. “Students achieve better grades in face-to-face classrooms.”

The new school would provide face-to-face instruction and counseling by professionals who are experienced with working with at risk youth.

“The kids right now, it seems, have a lack of options, and we don’t want to see kids fall through the cracks,” said Bialo.

The school will offer accredited regular classes to up to 24 boys in junior and senior high school, said Bialo.

“You will have all your core classes. You will have gym class and health class. You will have exactly what they need,” Bialo said. “Their credits will transfer back into the school that they came from… What they are doing has weight to it. Everything is transferable.”

Students attending the Pathways school will “go through a typical school day to get them back on track,” said Bialo. And the students will have their own classroom in a different building from the youth at Pathways, according to Bialo.

The school will be equipped with a teacher and teacher’s aide, both of whom have experience working with at-risk youth.

“We are able to bring in a teacher with almost 20 years experience working with at-risk youth,” said Bialo. The teacher has “worked at other facilities working in this exact model.”

The aide is also a state certified teacher with experience.

“So we really have two Pennsylvania certified teachers in the classroom who have experience working with this population. So I think it will be a really great success,” said Bialo.

Students will also receive weekly counseling from a certified counselor.

Bialo said the goal of the school is to get students back to their home school as soon as possible.

“Hopefully it will be a deterrent for (students) moving forward, so they will appreciate the opportunities they have in the public school setting more,” said Bialo. “This will deter them from wanting to come back or getting dispelled. Some kids just need a reset.”