Marquette school board tours alternative high school

Andrew Crunkleton, principal at Marquette Alternative High School, looks over gardens students at the school have been maintaining. The Marquette board of education viewed this project and others during a Monday walking tour at the school. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Basil, bicycles and a boat have been part of Marquette Alternative High School activities this year.

The Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education heard about these and other programs Monday during its regular board meeting, which took place at MAHS.

“I think it is important that we make these visits, continue to see the growth of the programs and what they’re doing for the students, just the time and energy that staff is putting into a lot of different and unique educational programs,” said Bill Saunders, superintendent of MAPS.

MAHS Principal Andrew Crunkleton talked about the school’s “love clubs,” which he acknowledged sounded “pretty cheesy” to his staff “and maybe the world” when the name was created.

However, he said the idea involved faculty members designing clubs for something they’re passionate about for the student body, which, over the 14 years he’s been at MAHS, has shifted from being a mostly junior-senior school to one whose 114 students are equally spread over all four classes.

“I think that reflection of freshman and sophomore classes is really a direct reflection of my teachers as a whole,” Crunkleton said.

MAHS is geared toward students for whom the regular high school experience might not be the best option.

Again, Crunkleton credited its staff.

“It’s a difficult job. We have difficult cases that we work with, for a variety of reasons,” Crunkleton said.

He also attributed the influx of students from surrounding areas to the “out-of-the-box” things the school is undertaking.

For example, one section of the school consists of a self-sustaining aquaponic garden with plants started from seed and are nurtured using fish feces, Crunkleton said, which can be tricky to get the gauge correct because no chemicals can be used with fish.

The school’s hydroponic garden consists of basil and lettuce.

“Our dream is getting to the point where we can self-sustain our salad bar,” Crunkleton said.

Seth Moore, who attends MAHS and is a student representative at MAPS board meetings, said the plants haven’t been sampled yet.

But will the produce taste good?

“I’m sure it will be once we get it all up,” Moore said.

Crunkleton also showed the board the school’s photography lab, pointing out the students create their yearbook in house.

However, the yearbook involves more than just placing photos on pages.

“The kids go out and sell ads,” Crunkleton said.

Another section of the school is devoted to storing used bicycles students can use, while other students are working in a separate garage on a special boat called a Cornish pilot gig.

MAHS teacher Brian Prill said that boat, which is expected to be completed next school year, will resemble the Lark, a pilot gig several community members built for public use during the boating season.

An upcoming project involves beekeeping.

To be a “bee-friendly school,” Prill said MAHS expects to install an observation hive that will allow bees to exit outside.

“That’s one of future goals: to have a nice little flower garden and flower space,” Prill said.

It also is hoped more hives will be placed at the school.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.