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Alternative Education Overview
Alternative Education provides students with new beginnings and second chances.  At Erie 1 BOCES, we focus on the whole student, allowing every opportunity to achieve goals, ensure a brighter future, and build productive members of society.
Each program provides content certified teachers, who have experience working with an at-risk population.
  • Alternative High School (grades 9-12)
  • Home Hospital Instruction
  • Out of School Suspension Options (Grades 7-12)
  • Twilight After School Education Options (Grades 10-12)
MiddleTech Academy debuts as gateway to high school

MiddleTech Academy seventhgrader Amarri Adside of Lackawanna Middle School works on building a bench for the Erie 1 BOCES Learning Center courtyard.MiddleTech Academy has hit the ground running in helping seventh- and eighth- graders succeed in a non-traditional learning environment.

The academy – a collaboration between Erie 1 BOCES’ Exceptional Education and Career and Technical Education (CTE) divisions – dovetails CTE enrichment with project- based academics in a full-day educational program. Around 30 students participate in the program, which offers them additional academic and social supports; a social worker, guidance counselor and special education expert stand ready to assist.

“The students are enjoying what they are learning and how they are learning it,” noted Erik Vohwinkel, principal of Exceptional Education. “With MiddleTech Academy, there’s a designed and conscious effort to connect the academic side at the Learning Center with the CTE side at the Potter Career & Technical Center, which is relatively simple in the realms of math and science.”

Vohwinkel added restorative justice practices are incorporated into the academy’s culture, which includes mentoring experiences and a focus on character education. In one instance of administering discipline, a student was asked to develop a PowerPoint presentation to share with their peers how to deal with anger.

In addition, a building community has blossomed in the school, with students forming bonds between each other, Vohwinkel mentioned. Student successes are routinely celebrated, as well.

MiddleTech is relatively new to Erie 1 BOCES’ suite of instructional services, having only been around for a few months. However, in that time, students have created dishes for a Thanksgiving feast, participated in a Spanish distance-learning class, made signs using vinyl graphics and participated in video game coding, among other achievements.

“MiddleTech is not stressful and I love the CTE portion of it, especially the building and cooking portion,” stated eighth-grader Hayleigh Benson of Hamburg Middle School. “I love that we get to use all the electronics every day, including the iPads, smartboards, laptops and everything else.”

Students in the MiddleTech program begin their day at the Learning Center with their academic work, which Vohwinkel referred to as a “hybrid, new-age home and careers curriculum.” They subsequently head to Potter for an hour and 45 minutes of their day to apply their knowledge in a relevant CTE setting similar to that at the high school level. The students then transition back to their work in the classroom at the Learning Center.

There’s currently a focus on technology in MiddleTech’s academic side,” Vohwinkel explained. “The students are working with iPads, virtual reality headsets, drones and zSpace boards, among other things. This interactive, hands-on approach to learning helps keep at-risk students engaged before they move on to high school.”

“Things are falling into place with MiddleTech, and I credit Erik and the staff for taking the lead in the program’s development,” stated Lucas Vogel, assistant principal at Potter. “MiddleTech helps expose middle school students to the possibilities of their learning in high school, so they will be more apt to rethink the way they might view school.”

To learn more about MiddleTech, call (716) 821-7025.

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