The Scarsdale Alternative School (SAS) was created in 1972 by students, teachers, and administrators as an experimental satellite of Scarsdale High School. The Alternative School is housed in a separate building on the High School grounds and in a corridor of the main school. SAS consists of 82 students (sophomores, juniors, and seniors), five full-time staff, and a full-time secretary. All SAS students have a Scarsdale High School Dean (guidance counselor), and Alternative School graduates receive a Scarsdale High School diploma. The schedule is the same as that of SHS; SAS students routinely enroll in classes at the main school.
The Scarsdale Alternative School was created and designed to meet the following goals:
- To establish a workable, democratic school governance system, a “just community.”
- To promote students’ social, civic, and moral development in addition to their academic and intellectual development.
- To create a sense of community where students and teachers learn to work together toward agreed upon goals.
- To increase students’ freedom and responsibility in pursuing their own education.
- To make the school less isolated from, and more responsive to, the larger community outside its four walls.
- To emphasize cooperation, and eliminate the more destructive forms of competition.
- To maintain the high level of academic achievement and excellence for which Scarsdale is known.
Very important in the philosophy of SAS is the emphasis on participation. At weekly Community Meetings, students and teachers work together to discuss and make decisions regarding many areas of school life including rule formation and discipline. Both personal and academic concerns are confronted. The SAS faculty believes that such emphasis on participation is essential for the full development of students. High school students need experiences from which they learn how to meet responsibilities as citizens in their schools, local community, and ultimately, in their country and in their world.
Efforts to promote students’ ethical and civic development have gained SAS both New York State and national validation as an “exemplary educational program.” The Scarsdale Alternative School program has served as a model for similar high school programs in other school districts.
Often alternative programs are created for the potential dropout, the slow learner, the gifted or talented, or those interested in a specific area such as music and art or math and science. Often students do not elect such programs but rather are placed into them. The Scarsdale Alternative School is NOT an alternative program of this type. Rather, it is an experimental school whose students represent a cross section of the larger population of Scarsdale High School. Because the school operates as a laboratory school, one of its purposes is to explore alternative structures and curriculum which are potentially useful to the parent institution and which are at the same time consistent with the philosophy and goals of SAS. For this reason it is important that SAS maintain a representative cross section of the Scarsdale High School population. Over the years, the School has consistently attracted a diverse student body.
SAS students are a heterogeneous group of typical sophomores, juniors, and seniors from Scarsdale High School. Students range from those who may be National Merit scholars and the very top students in the country to those with more limited academic skills. Students attend SAS for reasons too numerous and complex to treat in this brief description. Since, however, SAS is an entirely voluntary, self-selecting program, all students have in common the desire to be part of the school.
The Scarsdale Alternative School is a college preparatory school; generally all of its graduates go on to four-year colleges or universities. SAS offers the courses typically taken in high school in English, social studies, mathematics, science, and foreign language. Small size permits considerable flexibility in scheduling, allowing some unusual and rewarding experiences to take place such as courses which combine academic and field experience, and team-taught interdisciplinary courses.
Many SAS classes are small, allowing for individual attention and student participation. Students with learning difficulties can receive individual remedial work while high achievers can be directed toward more challenging courses and projects.
Most students take courses at the main school as well, in subjects not offered at SAS. SAS students participate in student government, various clubs, drama productions, publications, athletics, and other extra-curricular activities offered at Scarsdale High School.