Photo courtesy of Pioneer High School FaceBook Page

Pioneer Alternative School in Prineville Opens its Doors 

The alternative school is increasing graduation rates, number of college-going students

Once a low-key alternative program, plagued with an undesirable reputation and operating out of mobile classrooms, Prineville’s Pioneer Alternative School has evolved and found its rightful place in the Crook County School District. 

School officials cut the ribbon on Pioneer High School’s permanent location last month. Prior to opening the permanent location, the Pioneer program, which started as a credit recovery program in the fall of 2005, operated out of module classrooms and the former Crook County Elementary campus.

Back in the old days, it [Pioneer] sucked, it sucked to be a student at Pioneer, and it sucked to be a staff member.

Pete Goodrich, Assistant principal

According to assistant principal Pete Goodrich, “back in the old days, it [Pioneer] sucked, it sucked to be a student at Pioneer, and it sucked to be a staff member. Because it was much more like an in-school suspension sort of operation and was very grim.”

Goodrich continued, “over the last 10 years, the focus has been more and more on making it that kind of a school where students want to be. Now students are asking to come to Pioneer, that’s been our goal and the new building is just kind of icing on the cake. And that’s arguably an expression of the district’s interest in acknowledging Pioneer’s growth and its role.”

When most people think of alternative schools, they think of last-chance schools for students who have been expelled. But Goodrich disagrees with this stereotype, “We are a placement of choice. So that means, you know, students ask to come here. We’re not an expulsion, or disciplinary placement. There are some people still in the community who think that Pioneer is where the bad kids go. But I would argue that really, if you look at our cross section of our student body, we’re serving the same groups of students as Crook County High School.”   

Pioneer’s ultimate goal is to get diplomas into student’s hands, be this through a conventional Oregon Department of Education diploma, or a GED for which Pioneer offers testing and prep. Though, they do always push students to get a traditional diploma, Goodrich added.

Pioneer seems to be excelling at this, as their Oregon Department of Education Report Card shows that the on-time graduation rate has soared. The 2020 to 2021 school year had only 47 percent of students graduating on time. This number climbed to 79 percent last school year, which is an incredible feat that puts Pioneer in line with the state average. 

The new Pioneer building is located near Crook County High School, which allows students to not feel too disconnected from the main high school and use their specialized career technical education classes or arts classes. 

Goodrich echoed excitement over the district investing in Pioneer, and is thrilled the students have their own building where they can develop at their own pace. 

As students settle into their new setting at Pioneer, the future for the program and their students appears promising. 


  • Wes McGovern

    When Wes McGovern isn’t scouting out stories for The Obsidian or acquainting himself with the history and minute details of journalism — past and present — you can find him juggling his 5 AP classes, studying politics, reading some form of news or blowing off steam at the mountain. Wes is very excited to lead the first cohort of Future Journalists of America and believes very strongly in the mission of inspiring future generations to pursue the very rewarding, and often chaotic world that is disseminating the truth.

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