Sound Off: Academic upgrade coming to OHHS

By Dwight Lundstrom

OHHS Principal

The modernization of Oak Harbor High School is a multi-year project that is not so much about bricks and mortar as it is about students.

Not only must the physical structure meet the needs of students for the next 30 years, but also the academic structure. What goes on inside the building is also up for renovation.

Join us Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. in Parker Hall to review plans for the new high school, learn how classes will be managed during construction, and discuss ideas about strengthening graduation requirements. This meeting is especially important for students currently in grades 6 through 9, and their parents.

CONSTRUCTION PHASING: Starting with the fall of 2008, we need to find classrooms for 400 students displaced by renovations on the current buildings. Using the empty classrooms at the former Clover Valley Elementary building, rather than lease and install portable classrooms, saves more than $1 million. This means more money for the high school and less for a temporary fix.

It’s absolutely vital, however, that each student continues to enjoy the full high school experience. That means being a part of the main campus for a substantial portion of every day. We’re currently looking at a schedule that sends freshmen and sophomores to the North Campus (Clover Valley) for half-a-day each. They would take the standard English, math, social studies and languages courses at the North Campus while taking chemistry, music, career-tech courses, NJROTC, and physical education classes at the Main Campus.

A shuttle bus system would move students back and forth, with a 15-minute shuttle planned around lunchtime. All students would eat lunch together on the Main Campus, with half of the freshmen and sophomores attending the North Campus in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.

ACADEMIC CONCENTRATIONS: We want students to have a memorable high school experience while, at the same time, preparing them fully for life after high school, whatever that might be. Some students will move on to college. Some will enter the work force. Many will attend trade schools to learn specific skills such as culinary arts or computer technology. Others will join the military, with its high-tech demands.

This is clearly not a one-size-fits-all world.

As we move toward strengthening math for everyone, it’s also paramount that we best prepare our students for whatever path in life they choose. For the college-bound student, it means strengthening requirements for English, languages, and science. For a student choosing the military or the trades, it means helping him or her focus on a career path, with the opportunity to dig deep into a particular skill area. We’re looking for input on how to best make these changes.

The school is considering a new academic structure that helps 9th and 10th graders focus mostly on core requirements and meeting state proficiency standards in writing, reading, math, and science. At the same time, students would be encouraged to plan for their futures by choosing a “professional” or “technical” concentration.

The professional concentration would require students to take more English and science, as well as two credits in a foreign language. This is designed to match the typical entrance requirements of today’s four-year universities. A recent study shows that 51 percent of OHHS students currently meet these entrance requirements, which include four credits in English, three in math, three in science, and two in languages. We need to do better, so that those who choose college will be accepted at good schools.

The technical concentration requires fewer core credits and allows more electives. It would remain the same as we have right now, with one major change. Students would concentrate their electives in one of three academies: Arts and Humanities; Natural Sciences and Engineering; or Business and Communication.

College-bound students would also be expected to work largely within one of these academies, providing them with a more coherent and broad academic experience. For the technical student, it should help him or her focus in a particular skill area and explore aspects of that career area in greater depth.

These ideas are a continuation of an effort to increase rigor, raise the bar, and improve overall student performance at the high school. Oak Harbor High School is one of seven schools in the state pioneering the High Schools That Work initiative, which is making a difference in our expectations and how we conduct our classrooms.

Join us January 23 and learn what you can do to help.

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