When Teenagers Need an Alternative Education Program

Lakeside: Nearly 50 Years Helping Vulnerable Teens Succeed

Lakeside Educational Network currently provides educational and clinical services to over 1500 students per year.  We operate 4 alternative schools which serve students from 25 regional school districts, and we have a long-standing reputation of quality service and successful transitioning of students to their community.

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Lakeside School offers alternative education: academic and practical skills

We have been engaged in thousands of students’ lives for decades and have seen all kinds of trends and issues with our teenage community.

The world of alternative education is diverse

  • Alternative programs exist to help students who are unable to find success in the normal public or private school.

Depending on your location in the United States, alternative programs may be few or plentiful.  Each program varies in its degrees of professionalism, sophistication, effectiveness and competency. Where options for alternative programs are limited, parents usually have some say in the school their students attend.

Unfortunately, many alternative education programs simply “warehouse students” (they may isolate and ostracize while monitoring remotely) rather than provide a relational environment in which students can grow, learn, change then transition successfully back into their community. Finding the right program for your teen should involve research that offers ample details with references for you to make an informed decision. Placing your teen in a nurturing and supportive program cannot be overemphasized. It is best for your teen and will give you as parents peace of mind.

Upper Merion School District Vantage Program
Upper Merion School District Vantage Program classroom

What questions should you ask?

Here are some questions you can consider to assess the quality of the alternative education program. Answers to these questions should furnish enough detail to allow school districts and parents to determine the suitability for placement.

  1. What is the track record of the program in transitioning students back to their school, family and community successfully?
  2. Is the academic staff certified in the classes they teach?
  3. Are classroom sizes smaller than a regular school?
  4. Are the clinical staff qualified to provide clinical services?
  5. Are the staff members intentional about building quality relationships with students?
  6. Is there regular counseling and/or group support provided for the students?
  7. Are the facilities professional and appropriate for school and clinical purposes?
  8. Is there a clear policy and procedure for discipline of students that provides different levels of support for the students?
  9. Is there parental contact and involvement in the progress of their student?
  10. Is there a special education component if the student needs those kinds of services?
  11. Is there a system of recognition, rewards and incentives for students to grow toward success?
  12. Is there a staff-to-student ratio that allows staff to spend quality time with their students.? (Our ratio is about 1 staff to every 4 students.)

    teacher and teen student
    Relationships, personal attention as well as accountability are emphasized

Students referred to alternative programs are undergoing an intense set of struggles. It is essential that we provide a standard of care and quality for these students so that they are given every chance in life to succeed.

For more information about Lakeside’s programs, which may be customized and replicated for your school district, please visit

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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