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Alternative rocks: WEST Academy prepares students for future

New location. New name. New mindset.

Students and staff at Newton’s WEST Academy (formerly Basics & Beyond) have settled in nicely at their new place of study on the west side of First Avenue.

The alternative school, which serves area high schoolers in their last couple years of K-12 studies, has an average attendance rate more than 90 percent. For an alternative school, said Principal Mike Moran, attendance that high is remarkable.

“They want to be here,” Moran said. “They know they’re getting quality instruction. Our teachers are making it enticing that the kids want to be here and want to be learning.”

Over the course of the three-semester year, WEST is home to about 100 students. Because the student population is much smaller than the average public school, class sizes are smaller, and teachers get to spend more time with individual students. The average class size ranges from 10 to 14 students.

“The alternative setting like that is really fantastic for kids who have had some academic bumps or kids who just need that extra work with a teacher,” Moran said.

Aaron Main is a student at WEST. He said he likes the one-on-one work the teachers do with students. The subject matter is also helpful, he said.

“They actually teach what you’re going to do after high school, like taxes and looking for jobs and buying cars and houses,” Main said.

Victoria Cox attends the school, too. She agreed with Main about the one-on-one time. It helps her retain information, she said. Teachers at WEST connect with students and prepare them for the future, Cox said.

Many of the students at the academy go on to take courses at DMACC. Some enter the workforce right away, Moran said.

Most of the school’s students are from Newton, but WEST also partners with surrounding school districts. Currently, Pella, Lynville-Sully, Prairie City-Monroe and Baxter each have one student at the alternative school.

“I would say that number certainly has a chance to increase because we’ve had some really super positive feedback from our partner schools,” Moran said.

There are multiple reasons why students may end up at WEST versus attending Newton High School. Often times, Moran said, a student may have recently moved to the community and not have enough credits to graduate in their normal graduation year. In addition, some students may have had academic struggles in the past.

WEST, which is an acronym for Where Everyone Succeeds Together, doesn’t require as many elective credits to graduate as does NHS, making it the right option for some students. There’s a team of teachers, administrators and counselors that looks at potential transfers to the academy.

The alternative label often comes with a stigma attached. Cox and Main want to set the record straight. They said there is a lot of communication between students at WEST and no drama. They get along well.

“We’re not bad children,” Cox said. “Some of us are here because we need to, some of us are here because it works better for us. We’re not a school full of bad kids.”

Contact Justin Jagler at
641-792-3121 ext 6532

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