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Freshman and sophomores attend academy next year

What might have been a massive change in the way students attend Oak Harbor High School next year looks to be something more gradual.

Freshmen and sophomores will start attending an academy next school year designed to help them pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

However, officials are waiting a year to institute a junior/senior career academy and a block schedule for the whole school.

“We’re going to grow our ninth grade islands into the 10th grade,” said Dale Leach, assistant principal at Oak Harbor High School.

The current freshman class is divided into separate “islands” which allow students in the class to take English, math and science together. Island teachers also have a common planning period where they meet with each other to better resolve student problems.

When this year’s freshman class becomes sophomores, they will be grouped into similar islands and will take social studies instead of science. Leach said switching science and social studies will allow sophomores more flexibility in the type of science class to take.

The academy is designed to help students pass the WASL, which becomes a graduation requirement beginning with this year’s freshman class. Approximately 200 freshman at the high school failed part of the WASL when they were seventh graders and school officials are expecting a similar number next year.

Leach said their wasn’t enough time to institute the career academy for juniors and seniors. In that academy, juniors and seniors would choose a major and begin to prepare for life after high school. Plans for the career academy would have to be ready now because students are starting to register for classes next year.

“That was too short a time line,” Leach said.

As officials work on implementing a career academy, they are also developing a block schedule for classes. Students would attend four classes a day every other day instead of six classes every day. School officials have said the new schedule provides more options for students and the longer periods provide time to delve into subjects with greater detail.

During a community meeting last December, some parents were concerned that more classes would overwhelm students. Others were concerned that, while the class periods were longer, the amount of time student spends in class over the course of the semester is reduced.

Leach said school officials will continue the conversation over the next year.

He said more meetings need to take place and the information based on research needs to be presented to the community. He also pointed out that there has been community support expressed for the block schedule.

“We’ve had lots of positive response to the block schedule,” Leach said.

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