ACES Academy to have new learning options next year

News Photo by Julie Goldberg ACES Academy staff members talk to the Alpena Public Schools Board of Education on Monday about changes that are coming to the school next year.

ALPENA — Next year, the students at ACES Academy are going to see some positive changes and ACES Academy staff members presented those changes to the Alpena Public Schools Board of Education on Monday.

Counselor Barbara Matteson said there are going to be different learning options for the students next year. Those options are teacher-led blended courses, the continuation of co-enrollment opportunities at Alpena High School’s Career and Technical Education Program, dual enrollment opportunities at Alpena Community College, online courses and additional offsite opportunities to earn credits.

Matteson said the offsite opportunities are going to include project entrepreneurship, work-based learning, service learning, and volunteer opportunities through the Youth Volunteer Corps.

Teacher Dan Wilson said in order to accommodate all those opportunities for the students, the staff came up with a new schedule for the students. Wilson said there are two takeaways from the new schedule: flexibility and mentoring.

“Flexibility is a big part, and to start our day we’re going to start with 90 minutes of flex time. We’ll also end the day with that as well,” Wilson said.

Wilson said another takeaway is mentoring. He said mentoring is key at ACES. There is going to be a close relationship between the students and the faculty member who is their mentor.

Flex Friday is going to continue next school year. Flex Friday focuses on providing students with a diversity of academic and employment based learning options.

“A lot of that is going to be contingent on what the student and mentor come up with because we’re building opportunities and not just for content learning, but also some skill building,” Wilson said. “We want our students to build skills that they can take with them beyond ACES Academy.”

Students who are interested in going to ACES have to go through an interview process where they meet with the ACES staff and talk about what the changes are going to look like.

“For a lot of our students, change can be difficult, and it helps if they know what they’re getting into,” teacher Katie Buchinger said.

Something that is going to be new next year is a week-long orientation program. Buchinger said during the orientation, the students are going to work with their mentor on mapping out what it will take to get them to graduation.

“This gives kids kind of a view of where am I going and how am I getting there and what I am doing right now in my high school career to do that,” Buchinger said. “It will be planning out that pathway for the students and that orientation will help us get some baseline data on our students to see what skills they currently have and what areas do we need to build them up in.”

Teacher Erich Schlueter said the school is going to do more blended learning next year. Blended learning is utilizing a wide variety of instructional practices that use technology to either enrich, engage, or extend the curriculum. Each student at ACES will have their own Chromebook to use next year.

Schlueter said blended learning allows the teachers to customize how they’re teaching. The students are going to learn 21st century skills so they can become lifelong learners and they’re also going to have choice and flexibility in their assignments.

Dean of Students Laura Stibitz said professional development is something that will continue next school year. She said the school also is continuing social emotional learning and mentoring next school year.

Principal Matt Poli said this past year was year zero for ACES Academy. He said the staff stumbled a lot, but also learned a lot this past year, and the students have been right alongside the staff helping to try new things at the school.

“It takes an entire building to formulate and create this new foundation,” Poli said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.