Concerns aired over high school plan

Should plans be approved, students at Oak Harbor High School will see major changes during the 2005-2006 school year.

Officials want to divide the student body into two academies and institute a new schedule which will make for longer class periods while allowing students to take more classes.

Officials hope the change will increase the graduation rate, give students a better chance at meeting state requirements, and better prepare them for life after high school.

However, some parents have concerns about whether the plan is best for their children. They aired these concerns during a meeting Monday evening at the Oak Harbor High School library.

Parent concerns range from whether the increased class load could overwhelm students to whether there is time to make such a major change by next school year.

“We need to have a clear understanding of your goals and how you’re going to get this accomplished,” said Cheryl Gordon, a parent who has two children currently attending the high school.

She was also concerned that the additional classes could increase the workload and overwhelm students who are taking advanced placement classes.

Plans call for a two-day schedule where students will take four classes, alternating every other day. That allows student to take eight classes compared to the current six classes

The so-called “block” scheduling allows for 90-minute classes that officials hope will allow teachers time for more in-depth lessons.

Dale Leach, assistant principal at the high school, said the extended time in class provides a chance for a more activity-based learning opportunities.

Adding two more classes to the schedule provides more options for students.

However, one parent pointed out that the new schedule reduces the total number of hours students spend in class throughout the course of a school year.

“I don’t want them to lose hours, I want them to gain hours,” said Tom Trepanier, a math teacher and parent who will have children attending the high school in coming years.

Should the plan be approved, students will spend approximately 120 hours in each class over the course of the school year as opposed to 149 hours currently.

Principal Dwight Lundstrom said the time difference declines if actual teaching time in a course period is considered, since classes are 90 minutes in duration.

Another parent was concerned that the extra classes would affect the work the school has done in recent years in making the curriculum more challenging.

“I think Oak Harbor High School has come a long way to a more rigorous curriculum,” said Susan Wagner, who has two children attending the high school. She was concerned that the new schedule would dilute the curriculum.

Block scheduling is just one part of the plan to change the school next fall.

Officials also aim to develop two “academies” for students. The first is a pre-WASL academy to help ensure students are ready to pass the 10th grade state test which is a graduation requirement for the current freshman class.

The second academy, for juniors and seniors, is a career academy where students have declare a major that would help them prepare for life after high school.

“We want students to move through high school with a clear idea of where they are heading,” Lundstrom said.

He added that students are going to need some kind of post high school training whether that would be a technical school or a four-year university.

The academies stem from the recently instituted Islands Program where the freshman class is separated into different “islands.”

Freshmen take their core classes together which allows teachers to better monitor student progress.

The Islands Program is credited with reducing the number of students who are failing at least one class. That puts freshmen in a better situation to be successful in later years.

“Kids that get behind in ninth grade are at more risk to drop out than any other group,” Leach said.

Another parent, Lynne Vagt, cautioned that the current students’ education shouldn’t be affected while the plan is implemented in coming years.

Wagner complained that a Dec. 20 meeting is a lousy time of the year to hold such an event.

Lundstrom said he plans to meet with more parent groups in the future.

The public will get another chance to comment on the academy plan during the Jan. 10 school board meeting.

Lundstrom said that for the block schedule and academies plan to be implemented next school year, he needs school board approval by the end of February.

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