Business News

Longview School Offers Alternative High School in Woodland Setting
By Penny Williams - 4-10-14

The Longview School at the Summit Center in Deerfield offers an alternative high school for young people with emotional and behavioral disabilities and other health impairments or learning disabilities. They come to Longview on a placement from their home school districts.

The school, which opened in 2000, is centered in a warm, welcoming log structure located at the highest point on the 154-acre campus, which borders Pawtuckaway State Park. Its setting provides a sprawling wilderness environment in which the Adventure-Based Counseling component of the school thrives.

Longview’s director and founder, Tom Jennings, has been involved in alternative and outdoor education for more than two decades. He found the property and built the school after spending 12 years at Summit High School in Amherst.

And he calls his school, “The best kept secret in New Hampshire education.”

The campus is laced with trails, and houses a nature center and an art walk. A ropes challenge center is under construction.

The co-educational student body ranges from 10 to 20 students in its diploma granting high school program. The school also offers a 19-day Outward Bound-type summer program.

During the school year program, the students are placed in three teams. Mondays through Thursdays the students work on traditional academic courses and electives, and Fridays are devoted to Adventure-Based Counseling, which uses outdoor activities ranging from kayaking to mountain biking and from art walks to skiing.

Students are involved in both the fully certified academic program and the therapeutic component, and Jennings emphasized that the whole package is designed to help students address their individual issues and situations, discover who they are and find success in the program.

The faculty are all New Hampshire certified teachers and the staff to student ratio is one to six.

The classrooms are small but well appointed. A social studies class was in progress on a recent visit, and the teacher was interacting with each of the half dozen students grouped around a table. In the shop, two boys were working on wood projects under the teacher’s supervision. One used a table saw and the other prepared wood to be cut. The student-teacher interaction and close working relationship was obvious.

Nearby, a student was perched on a stairway for some undisturbed study time, but she smiled and chatted with Jennings as he passed by. When he asked her what she liked about the school, she was quick to note the advantage of small class sizes.

Jennings said the school’s philosophy is to provide an engaging hands-on educational atmosphere with opportunities for students to connect with their teachers and counselors and with the environment. He encourages non-traditional teaching methods.

Jennings is passionate about his school’s art program, both in its therapeutic component and in the effort made to provide the students with a practical set of skills.

He also proudly noted the new kitchen, which he said offers students their “newest adventure,” a Culinary Arts program that complements the Arts and Adventure curriculum. Jennings said this addition is an example of how the school addresses students’ changing needs. He sees the culinary program as adding another creative arts opportunity with real world implications.

“We’ve had students from over 20 different school districts and from as far away as Timberlane to Londonderry, Concord to Pittsfield and Alton Bay and Salem,” Jennings said. “The kids come to us through a referral, out-of-district placement process. They pay a visit to the school and if they decide to come, they have a 30-day probation period to ensure the fit is right. We have an open admission policy and kids can join us throughout the year. We are a non-profit, and the sending school districts pay the tuition.

“We are a smaller version of a larger school and we have a normal spectrum of kids, all of whom have an IEP (Individualized Educational Program),” he added. “We are good at working with these kids that are at risk, and this style of alternative education has proved successful for most of our students. We provide these kids with an opportunity to get connected and get caught up, and we do it by providing extra attention and specialized counseling and teaching, all blended into their educational experience.

“This is a place where the kid who just didn’t fit into the traditional high school environment can find a way to connect,” he concluded.

Jennings said about 10 to 15 percent of the students who attend Longview return to their sending schools. He noted that many of his students return after graduation and some come back to help with the program.

Jennings is passionate about the alternative education his school provides. He said once he found the property, he designed and built the school specifically for the components of his alternative educational approach. And he noted that it is in the specialized opportunities in the arts and sports and outdoors areas at Longview that he sees the students beginning to relax, open up and connect with their teachers.

Longview School is part of the Regional Services and Education Center and its program is approved by the New Hampshire Department of Education as a Non-Public School for Special Education.

For more information, contact Jennings at 463-7854 or on the Web at
























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