New location provides growth opportunity for Pioneer Tech

The students do their work.

  • The students do their work.
  • Students keep working on laptops while some of their peers leave for lunch.

Now in its third year, Pioneer Tech is an alternative school that provides students in the Hamilton area a chance to be successful.

Students attend the school all for different reasons, but one common theme is they like the independent work environment that PT offers.

This year PT  has moved from Hamilton High School to the old Java Hut coffee shop building on M-40 and Waverly.  The first year, PT worked out of the old portable classrooms outside the middle school.

The program started out with 15 hamilton students, but has grown to more than 40.

“The new building is a bit distracting with all the windows, but it’s nice,” junior Jesse Schneider said. “It’s a little far away, but it’s still a nice building.”

Mrs. Joy Zomer and Mr.  Ned Van Farowe are the two teachers at Hamilton’s Pioneer Tech school.  Mrs. Zomer has been with the program since the begining. Mr. Van Farowe is new this year. He used to teach at the Allegan county juvenile  detention facility. They both love working at Pioneer Tech.

The kids learn the same Michigan Merit Curriculum as students do at the high school, they just do so on their own time and at their own pace. They can use online courses, including E2020, or work offline on projects.

Pioneer Tech started with just Hamilton students but now is getting a lot of school of choice kids.

“One of the great things about this location is we can draw from Zeeland, we can draw from Holland, we can draw from Fennville, from Saugatuck,” Mrs. Zomer said. “We have over 42 kids registered. Some work at home, but many come in here to get their class work completed,” she added.

The typical day for a Pioneer Tech student starts around 7:30. From the start of school to around 10:45 they proceed to do their work. Lunch starts at 10:45 and ends at 11:30. School ends the day at 2:40. There’s a shuttle bus that takes the kids from Hamilton High to the tech building. It  returns to pick them up for lunch and at the end of school.

One difference in PT and Hamilton High is an option for lunch.

“We have open campus now, our students here do,” Mrs. Zomer said, adding that “that’s a privilege not a right.”

In order to maintain open campus the students have to keep up a 95% attendance rate and have academic progress in all of their six classes within the semester.

The students work independently for the most part.

“I guess I like it okay,” Pioneer student Aloriah Nienhuis said. “I mean working with other students never really bothered me.”

For some students, the sefl-paced environment is something that has worked well for them.  At the beginning of the year, junior Adam Lanser completed 6 class in 5 weeks.

“You gotta be motivated,” Lanser said. “You gotta be the person who wants do it to accomplish it.”




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