Q. What does a typical day look like in this program?
A. The day starts with your child going to TA (teacher advisory), a homeroom, for 10 minutes. Here they will meet with their case manager and other students in their TA. It’s a chance to check in regarding any concerns your child may be experiencing, to listen to the morning announcements, and plan for the upcoming day’s events. The rest of the morning is comprised of small academic classes. At 10:45 a.m. students attend D.O. Physical Education or permit class, followed by lunch between 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the MUHS cafeteria. From 12:05 p.m. – 2:10 p.m., students attend their afternoon work-related program. Sending school students board their buses at 2:10 p.m., while Middlebury students attend 8th period at D.O. until 2:55 p.m..
Q. What is the afternoon work program?
A. Our afternoon work program is very unique. In the first two years of the D.O. Program, your child will take the TGIF Café Program and the Vocational Exploration Program. TGIF students will learn how to plan, make and serve food to the public in the public restaurant they operate each Friday. Come join us, it’s delicious! In the Vocational Exploration Program, students will work on a variety of community projects that will involve the safe use of numerous hand and power tools. The final two years of your child’s D.O. experience will involve working in the community, in the Work Experience Program, at a variety of job sites under the supervision of D.O. staff. Each student will rotate through numerous job sites that will require the use of many job skills. Some students may chose to apply, upon successful completion of at least one year of the Work Experience Program, to one of the many occupational areas offered by the Hannaford Career Center.
Q. Do students in the D.O. Program actually receive a monetary stipend?
A. Yes. Our banking program is integrated into each student’s afternoon work program. Students have the opportunity to receive a stipend of one dollar for each successful afternoon of work. Students must be in attendance and meet the criteria set by the supervising teacher to receive that day’s stipend. They are able to receive a maximum stipend of $20.00 each month. Each afternoon program awards one student “The Employee of the Month.” These students will receive an additional $10.00 for that month.
Q. Do they get to keep the money?
A. Yes, but … D.O. sets up an account for each student at the National Bank of Middlebury. Each month they must deposit 40% of their check into their account. They may keep the remainder and spend it as they see fit. Upon graduation from the program, students receive the entire balance from their account. Each month, students do their own banking at the National Bank of Middlebury. We feel very strongly that this program teaches valuable personal banking skills.
Q. Are there any extra-curricular activities for my child?
A. Yes, many!
D.O. Osprey Rowing Club: We have a weekly rowing club where staff and students row one of the 4-oar or 6-oar pilot gig boats owned by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Each Monday, the crew rows down Otter Creek below the Vergennes Falls or out on Lake Champlain. The D.O. Osprey Rowing Club has an opportunity to compete in several races each year on Lake Champlain.
D.O. Student Council: Each fall, D.O. students elect their peers onto the D.O. Student Council. It is compromised of 8 members, 4 female and 4 male students. Each year the Student Council organizes and hosts several D.O. dances and other program functions. They are also responsible for assisting staff in drafting various program policies, rules and regulations. The Student Council often organizes other activities within D.O. such as Spirit Week, guest speakers, and various fundraisers.
Hawk blind, song bird and owl nets: Rodney Olsen, the D.O. Science teacher, offers numerous after-school opportunities for students and their families to join him at the hawk blind, song bird and owl nets. On these special occasions, students may demonstrate their knowledge of catching, banding and recording scientific data of hawks, owls, and song birds.
Multi-day educational trips: Each year, Rodney Olsen and the Science class take selected students on a 5-day birding trip to the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory in Rochester, New York. As part of the Current Events class, students will embark on a 4-day trip to Washington, D.C. Other classes may take multi-day trips according to the curriculum being studied, funding and student interest.
Q. What if I need to get a message to my son/daughter?
A. Please call our office at 382-1060. Please leave a message on the phone if no one is at the desk. If it is an emergency, please call the Hannaford Career Center front desk, at 382-1012, and they will deliver the message promptly to us.
Q. Can’t I just call his/her cell phone?
A. No! Please do not attempt this. Students are not permitted to carry or use cell phones during the school day. All messages must be communicated through our D.O. office or to the D.O. case manager. Thank you for your cooperation regarding this matter.
Q. I love this program! What if my friend would like to enroll their child, also?
A. There is a proper referral process and application procedure that must be followed. Your friend should first contact their child’s case manager at their current school and express this wish. The case manager will know the necessary steps to take to get the process started. Your friend and their child are welcome to visit us here in D.O. We strongly encourage this! Visits happen very frequently and are helpful in decidng if D.O. is the appropriate placement.
Q. Are permission slips really important?
A. Yes, yes, yes! In the beginning of the year, we usually send home a blanket permission slip to be signed. Because many classes frequently take their students out, to send a separate slip home each time for each trip would be too time consuming and an administrative nightmare for you and for us. The general permission slip at the beginning of the year covers most of these outings. There are times when a particular activity or trip is so unusual that it requires its own separate permission from you. When this happens, we promise we’ll send one home to you!
Q. What about graduation credits? Will my child get enough to graduate?
A. Absolutely! All of our classes in the program count toward the necessary graduation credits required by your child’s sending school. Each of the area high schools is slightly different in what they require. Your child’s case manager will work closely with you and the sending school to guarantee that this is accomplished. It’s our experience that our students frequently have considerably more than the required amount of credits by the time they graduate.
Q. Someone mentioned that the D.O. staff are sticklers regarding a student’s personal hygiene. Is that really important?
A. Absolutely! We feel that teaching our students the importance of practicing good personal hygiene is extremely important for many health, social and work related reasons. In addition, the physical space here in D.O. is tight and thus can be quite oppressive when a student needs to shower, wear appropriate deodorant and/or change into clean clothes. The program reserves the right to ask a student to take a shower in the D.O. shower room or change into clean clothes if the presenting conditions are affecting the learning environment of other students and staff. The staff is well-trained, discreet and very sensitive in approaching an individual student should this become evident and necessary.
Q. What if my child is going to be absent?
A. The best practice is to send in a note to us prior to their absence informing us when and why they will be absent. If an illness sneaks up on your child and they are unable to attend school, please call the office at 382-1060 to inform us. Your child must bring in a signed note the following day or else this absence will be counted as unexcused and thus may adversely affect their grades.
Q. What about early dismissals or pick-ups for a doctor’s appointment?
A. No problem! Just send in a note (or call) informing us as to when, where and why and we’ll make sure your child is where they need to be when you come to pick them up.
Q. We all have bad days, some worse than others. What do you do when a student’s behavior is inappropriate, disruptive or unsafe?
A. In most cases, the staff will give the student a verbal warning to stop the inappropriate behavior. If that does not work, the staff will probably ask the student to excuse themselves from the room and write a behavior plan. This is a one-page piece of paper that asks the student to identify the inappropriate behavior and what steps they plan to take to stop it. Usually the student will be allowed to return to the classroom as soon as they complete this and review it with the sending staff. The program’s policy for three plans in a week is for that student to serve a one hour, after-school detention. The D.O. Program does reserve the right to send a student home if their behavior is unsafe and/or extremely disruptive or inappropriate.
Q. What if my child wants to go home on a different bus with their friend?
A. I’m glad you asked this one! This seems to come up a lot. For liability reasons, we are unable to allow this to happen unless we receive written or verbal permission from you. Please be certain to check the sending school’s policies, too. They may require additional permission from you and their administration.
Q. Can you make sure that my child takes their medication if I send it in with them?
A. Good question. The school nurse is the only one authorized by the state of Vermont to dispense medication to your child on school property. Please make sure that the medication goes directly to the MUHS school nurse. There may be an occasion, should a trip take your child’s class off school grounds for the entire day, that the required medication is given to the teacher by the nurse to dispense to your child.
Q. Who do I contact if I have a concern or question about my child or the program?
A. Each student is assigned a case manager. In the D.O. Program, the five academic teachers are the case managers. Please ask who your child’s case manager is and how they can be reached. This person will be your main contact should you have any concerns.
Q. How will we know how my child is doing?
A. Like most public schools, you will receive quarterly grade reports and quarterly interim progress reports (at the half-way point of each quarter). You may also receive a telephone call from the teacher and/or case manager regarding great work in the classroom or if there’s a problem that your child seems to be having. Of course, we encourage you to call the teacher or case manager directly if you ever have a concern or question.
Q. Does D.O. offer its own PE class or do the students join MUHS PE classes?
A. Yes, we do our own adaptive PE classes. No, we do not join the MUHS PE classes. We do however, often use their facilities such as the their outdoor fields, indoor gym, weight room and wrestling room. The PE staff offers a wide variety of sports and games to foster physical development and encourage students to a acquire a variety of skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Q. I heard that you go skiing and snow-shoeing? Do you really?
A. Yes! Each winter (usually in February or March), the entire program heads out once a week to the Rikert Ski Touring Center Breadloaf Campus in Ripton, Vermont to expose our students to cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. We ask that our students choose one of the two activities. We usually go between 3-4 times. We leave the D.O. Program in Middlebury at 9:30 a.m. and return by the 11:25 a.m. lunch period.
Q. What, no downhill skiing?
A. Sometimes, if there is enough interest, we may plan a day trip to one of the local mountains so that students may choose to go downhill skiing or snowboarding.
Q. What is this Friday town meeting we keep hearing about?
A. For many of us, this is the most enjoyable hour of the week. It is a time for all of the D.O. students and staff to gather together in the large TGIF Café room. The agenda is set and facilitated by members of the D.O. Student Council. On any given Friday, you will witness numerous appreciations given by and to D.O. students and staff, accomplishments in the classroom and on the job site, upcoming events, student oral presentations, discussion of student concerns and solutions to those concerns, pictures and videos of specific D.O. classes and projects, and many other topics. We would love to have you join us any time for one of our inspiring and uplifting meetings. Come on in!
Q. It sounds like there is a lot going on in D.O.! How will I keep track of it all?
A. You’ve got that right! Most people have no idea of all the educational, vocational, exciting and fun things that happen in this program. The best way is to ask your child every day what happened at school, and don’t settle for the “Nothin’” response! Press them for details! Another way is to read the this D.O. web site as it is constantly being updated! In fact, there is a D.O. English class responsible for writing, editing and adding the content to this site. You may also call your child’s case manager at any time to inquire about any aspect of the program or to share a concern you may have.