Fern Ridge School re-opened in 1992. Previously an elementary school, Fern Ridge's rebirth as an alternative high school for the has impacted the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of area students.
While the school’s beginnings are humble, its goals are grand. Young people are frequently reborn at Fern Ridge.
“We can be life-changing for kids who are struggling,” said Becky Warren, principal at Fern Ridge High School.
Students attend “Fern”, as it is affectionately called, by choice.
“We have bright students who, for various reasons, have not found success in our four traditional high schools." Warren said. “We interview and assess each individual to see if Fern has the resources to meet their needs and beyond.”
The staff at Fern Ridge is one of its most valuable resources.
“Teachers here can make a larger impact and difference in the educational life of a child,” said Warren, because of small class size. With enrollment at about 100 students, teachers have time to build deeper relationships with students and focus on more than just academic needs.
Each teacher mentors a small group of students. A counselor is also available.
“Here, it doesn’t make a difference if a child is your student or not, you give one hundred percent for him,” said William Sanders, a permanent substitute teacher at Fern.
Core curriculum is the same as all Parkway high schools and meets Missouri requirements for a diploma. There are, however, no remedial, honors or advanced placement classes at Fern Ridge. A small number of electives are offered. services are available.
It is the contrast in teaching methods that breeds success for Fern Ridge students.
There is flexibility and time to adjust teaching to suit different student learning styles. Some classwork is provided through interactive online learning. These courses provide visual, auditory and tactile learning—and quick feedback for students who may be struggling with a subject.
Teachers monitor these courses and facilitate the learning process. Fern’s four-semester schedule is an opportunity to earn more credits per academic year than in traditional high schools. This allows credit deficient students to recover and often graduate on target.
Warren was instrumental in implementing online learning and the school’s four-semester schedule.
Not satisfied with a graduation rate of more than 90 percent, she is always contemplating new programs and methods to help her students.
“We are not satisfied with our students just getting a diploma. We are pushing college and life readiness,” Warren said.
More than 71 percent of Fern Ridge graduates attend college or technical schools. Currently, Warren is developing a mentor and internship program with area businesses.
“These students have struggled with life. They want a fresh start,” Warren said. “Fern provides a new environment, new friends and new possibilities.”