Hinkletown Mennonite School website grab

Hinkletown Mennonite School is adding high school programming starting in January 2017.

Hinkletown Mennonite School is adding high school classes in an effort to prepare students who want to attend college while also offering opportunities for those who want to jump right into the workforce.

The Venture Program will offer a nontraditional blend of learning, including classroom and online instruction, internships and community partnerships with area businesses and organizations, according to Melissa Beidler, the school’s director of marketing and enrollment.

Classes will begin in January with about five ninth-grade students, Beidler said. Tenth- and 11th-grade classes could attract an estimated 36 students when they are offered at the start of the 2017-18 school year, she said. Twelfth-grade classes will be offered in the 2018-19 school year.

The Earl Township school serves about 210 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade.

Hinkletown school board member Megan Ament said the school wanted to create something innovative while maintaining its Christ-centered focus.

“We wanted to keep it personalized to our students’ interests,” said Ament, who helped design the Venture Program. “We wanted to make sure it's a program for students who want to go to college and want to get ahead, and for those who want to go straight into the workforce."

Beidler said the school has approached, and has been contacted by, businesses and community organizations as it has developed the program.

“Formal partnerships with local businesses will be confirmed during the spring and as enrolled students’ interests are known,” she said.

Internships "allow students to find an occupation and allow business people to tap into that when (the students) are ready to go into the workforce — whether that is for summer work or after they graduate,” said Earl Weaver, a Hinkletown founding board member and Weaver’s Toasted Grains owner.

Hinkletown will use existing space for the high school program, Beidler said, and two part-time teachers will be hired to start, including Ament, who will teach science.

Beidler said the school board budgeted about $450,000 total for costs associated with the program for the next three years. Costs are expected to fluctuate as the program evolves, she said.

Tuition for the school for the 2016-17 academic year is $5,800, and financial aid is available, she said. Next school year’s tuition hasn’t been set. The cost for students beginning in January will be prorated because the 2016-17 school year began in August.

Hinkletown school board member Holly Steffy said she’s interested in the program for some of her children.

“Employers and colleges are going to be looking for more than kids to just show up,” she said. “They are looking for more well-rounded people.”

Steffy likes that the program includes the potential for gaining work experience. And even if her children were to find out they didn’t want to work in the field they may have an internship in, that’s still a lesson learned, she said.