Inside the Harbor


The Harbor is the Southeast Polk High School alternative school. Students attending it enter through this door each day. Alyssa Williams photo.

When I walked into the Harbor, kids were relaxing on the floor and joking around before school. The teachers were all gathered talking around a table. English Teacher, Dan Kline, walked me down to his room.

“There are two rules: no sleeping and no phones in my room,” said Kline. He then poured me a cup of coffee and sat down to talk.

The Harbor is the name of the alternative school at Southeast Polk.

“We follow what’s called an ‘expeditionary model.’ The Harbor credit track is the exact same number of core credits [as the traditional high school,] but simply [requires] less electives, 37 credits compared to 48 required,” said Kline.

The Harbor has a different schedule than the regular school. The afternoons have core classes with a twist.

“Our theme right now in the afternoons is the criminal justice system, and each of the different subjects focuses on that theme to build connections between the topic and the student,” said Kline.

This encourages students to stay engaged in school because all the lessons are creative.

To eliminate the perception of different levels of authority, students and teachers are all on a first name basis. The teachers also make birthday cards for students and do other things to foster relationships. They even take trips as a whole group like going bowling.

“It’s amazing when a student knows that a teacher cares about them,” said Kline.

Joey Finney is a student in the Harbor. He joined in 10th grade.

“My favorite thing about the Harbor is probably that we have a first name basis with the teachers. It’s more relaxing and welcoming,” said Finney

The Harbor also has different goals. Kids have an attendance goal to ensure they stay in school.

“I still think it’s right for me because it makes me stay in school because you have to keep track of attendance or it could be dropped,” said Finney.

Harbor students have school four days a week and homework help on Fridays for students who need more time to do work or who missed school previously that week.

“The structure of the Harbor is to focus on those core things: getting along, attendance, doing what your boss tells you to do, and dealing with conflict,” said Kline.

The Harbor is an easy way to keep from major distractions at school. 2019 Harbor graduate, Payton Stanley joined in 11th grade.

“It was definitely the right choice for me. I got to focus on what was really important at school,” said Stanley.

Along with the class structure being different, the class size is also smaller. Kline said there is about 11 students in each class. This kind of teaching gives room to differentiate for different kinds of learning.

“Students get a lot more one-on-time,” said Kline.

This time helps the students get a deeper understanding of the lessons and get extra help when needed.

Students can also make friends more easily. This can be less overwhelming than regular school.

“I made so many good friends in the harbor, they are lifelong,” said Stanley.