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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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CENTRAL ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL. In 1972 Central Extension School opened at 1500 Locust within the administration building of the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. The school offered a partial high school curricula for students who had left the city's public high schools or had difficulties adjusting to the traditional classroom.

On April 28, 1980 Central Extension School gained school board approval to expand its staff and provide a four-year degree program. The school was also renamed Central Alternative High School. In 1983 Central Alternative was moved to 39 Bluff Street, the former site of FRANKLIN SCHOOL.

During the 1992-1993 school year, Central became an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound School. This placed the school within the design of the New American Schools Development philosophy that stated a belief that all students can learn. The philosophy also placed an equal value on students’ character and intellectual development.

In 1995 Dubuque Community School District Superintendent Marvin O’HARE suggested closing Central to raise money for school improvements and reduce the amount requested in a proposed instructional levy. This was rejected by District officials in 1997.

In January 2006, District officials questioned whether there should be continued investment in Central, one of the oldest district-owned buildings.

In May 2008 Superintendent John Burgart again recommended closing Central to help reduce a $5.5 million debt the District faced for the 2008-2009 academic year. The Board of Education, however, during its June 10th meeting voted 7-0 not to close the school and to reconsider the issue the following fall. In 2008 Central had approximately 185 students including an estimated 45 behaviorally disordered and 20 learning-disabled students.

In 2009 a task force recommended that Central remain open for the 2009-2010 school year while options at other locations were being considered.

In March 2010 a proposal was made to the school board to close Central and create two alternative program options. The board approved the proposal as part of district-wide budget cuts. The last graduation ceremony was held on May 28, 2010 at the GRAND OPERA HOUSE. A total of fifty-one students were in the last graduating class. As the building closed, the Dubuque Community School District was planning alternative programs in which the students would not be in a typical classroom setting and might be involved in some online courses. A location for the students to interact with teachers was created in the former lunchroom at the Forum, the administrative building of the District on Chaney Road. During July 2010 selected building and District staff met to develop the new alternative program, class schedules and assignments.

On August 4, 2010 an informal open house was held for incoming students and their families. Students registered for classes at either DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL or STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL. On August 23, 2010 students of the Alternative Learning Center met at the center for a few hours on their first day.

Students at Central were involved in many media-covered projects:

City Government in Dubuque (1994), a book on how local city government works, was created through interviews of local employees and members of the municipal government. In 1995 the book was awarded the Excellence in Local Government Award presented by the International City and County Managers Association.

The Tuskegee Airmen: Victory at Home and Abroad (1998) involved students in American history and English interviewing members of the famous flying force and publishing a 230-page reference. The proceeds of from sales of the book exceeded $10,000 and were given to the Red Tail Project in Minneapolis to restore a P-51 Mustang to honor the Tuskegee fliers.

A Tribute to Victory: Dubuque in World War II, (2000) involved American history and English students interviewing local citizens affected by the war. The book received the Loren Horton Local and Community History Award from the State Historical Society of Iowa in May 2001. In September 2001 the book received the National Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History. Sales of the book helped Central to contribute $5,000 to the National [[[WORLD WAR II]] Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Shifting Sands: A Seminar on the Middle East (2002) involved three Global Issues students organizing a public seminar on Middle East issues with guests from the Stanley Foundation.

Civil Rights: A Central Issue (2003) placed American history and English students into research about the American Civil Rights Movement. Their book was presented to the public during a seminar at LORAS COLLEGE in March 2003. Members of the “Little Rock Nine,” African-American students who challenged their city’s segregation laws in 1957, attended the session.

Central students were involved in working with civic planners, local historians, and archivists during their research into the SHOT TOWER. In 2005 student articles outlining progress and facts discovered were published in the TELEGRAPH HERALD.

The Cold War: A Study of Conflict and Change (2007) brought the students to the study of the years 1945 to 1991. A 276-page research book was produced and a seminar was held with speakers from the Berlin Airlift and the son of Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot shot down by the Russians in 1960.

In 2010 amid budget reductions leading to reduced programs and cuts in staff, Central Alternative was closed in favor of increased online programs and two new alternative programs--communication and technology or environmental studies. Students would not attend classrooms but would meet with teachers at The Forum, the administration building, and community centers for workshops and seminars to gain graduation credits.

On October 23, 2010 Gary Carner submitted the winning bid of $550,000 to purchase the former Central Alternative High School building. Carner and a group of investors planned to transform the building at 39 Bluff Street into upscale apartments.




"Central's Buyer Plans Apartments," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 24, 2010 p. 13A

Winter, Jim. "Regional District Embrace Programs," Telegraph Herald Aug. 23, 2010