Not every student excels in a traditional classroom setting and this is why Texas City Independent School District has added the Challenge Academy to the alternative education program offerings this year. Alternative programs for behavior have been in place for more than 20 years and credit recovery has been in place for 10 years. This new addition offers online curriculum and individual and small group instruction for students of all academic levels and abilities with a flexible schedule that can accommodate student needs.

There are currently 144 students enrolled at the Challenge Academy. Many of them work, and 21 of them are teenage moms and dads. Because of the online curriculum, students can do their lessons from any computer at any time. They are required to spend a minimum of 15 hours at the Challenge Academy facility. While there, students can work independently on computers or they can take advantage of one-on-one instruction and small group instruction. Tutorials are also offered for standardized testing, Advanced Placement exams and SAT preparation.

Challenge Academy serves students in grades 9-12 from both La Marque and Texas City high schools. It is set up like an office model.

“We ask kids to perform their job of earning their class credits and they get to work,” said Randa Gilbert, program coordinator. “The teachers serve as the supervisors and are there to assist with things they are unsure of. It’s working well.”

The students are enjoying the small, quiet environment at the Challenge Academy.

“Some students just work better on their own and some students can’t handle the anxiety or stress that a traditional classroom environment puts on them,” said Gilbert. “This is an ideal place for them.”

The building is open from 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. most Saturdays during standardized testing periods. Any student in the district can take advantage of the STAAR End of Course and TAKS test tutorials on Saturdays.

There are two full-time staff members at the Challenge Academy and five part-time certified teachers. Students can catch up on credits they are missing or they can accelerate their learning to graduate early. So far, eight students have already completed the credits they need for graduation. Two of those have chosen to have a private graduation ceremony at the April 11 school board meeting.

In addition, the staff at the Challenge Academy helps the students to find jobs and fill out applications. They are currently working on a project to establish an interview closet so that students have access to professional dress for their job interviews.

Students and parents are grateful for what this new school is providing.

“The students here have not thrived in a traditional high school setting,” said Gilbert. “Some have even come to us from private and home schools. They thank us all the time for the help we are giving them and the parents are grateful to the district for offering this opportunity.”

Melissa Tortorici is Director of Communications for Texas City ISD.

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