By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Laconia Alternative Education Program, known as "The Alt," has partnered with the Downtown Gym to provide physical education to its students for the first time since the program began a decade ago.
Janet Brough, marketing and training coordinator for the school district, said that program shares space with the Laconia Senior Center on Canal Street, just around the corner from the gym on Main Street.
"Janine Page reached out to us and we started a pilot program in May," she said.
On Wednesdays the students spend 45 minutes at the gym between 10:30 and 11:15 a.m.
"Since their regular program does not include physical education, this is an opportunity for them, " she said. "And they can work off some energy."
There are 28 students, from grades 9 through 12, enrolled in "The Alt" from Laconia and the other five districts that send students to the Huot Technical Center — Gilford, Belmont, Inter-Lakes, Winnisquam and Franklin.
Matt Dubois, who teaches mathematics, said that apart from occasional hikes and field trips, the students at "the Alt" spend their time in the classroom and the time at the gym is a welcome respite. He explained that science, mathematics, English and social studies are taught at "The Alt," but the focus is more on the students than subjects.
"We are teaching them how to be successful students," he said.
The students, he said, are not performing well in a conventional school setting and instruction at "The Alt" aims to prepare them to re-enter the school system or continue their education at night school or online.
At the gym, they split into two or three groups. A handful took to cycling. More tried the weight and strength training machines to test their upper bodies, while others joined Trish Tryon, one of the trainers at the gym, to use free weights to work their lower bodies.
Greg, a 16-year-old from Inter-Lakes who was working out on a treadmill, said he looks forward to returning to school and playing football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Pedaling a cycle, Hailee from Laconia High School said she enjoyed the time at the gym and away from from the classroom, but doubted that her experience in the gym would lead her to exercise regularly.
Nancy Hood, who teaches English exercised alongside the students.
"We are focused on the students," she said. "We work the kinks out and create students again."
Matt Dubois (standing, center) of the Laconia Alternative Education Program joined his students at the Downtown Gym where they take time away from classes to exercise on Wednesday mornings. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)
Trish Tryon (right) introduces students from ther Laconia Alternative Education Program to doing squats with free weights at the Downtown Gym, whiere they spend an hour on Wednesday mornings working off energy. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)