My turn: One school, two campuses

Freshman-sophomore, junior-senior split fosters school, community unity

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In 1970, I was stationed on a ship in Panama City, Fla., a totally segregated community in the Deep South. The city was finally going to have to cease its "separate-but-equal" school approach and compel racial integration. Local leaders, both black and white, agreed on a plan that would not only meet the letter of the law but would be total and immediate.

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Instead of busing some black kids to white neighborhood schools and vice versa, they formatted a single school system where it didn't matter where you lived. If you were in a particular grade, you would attend school in a specific building. Thus, each school building held a different grade or grades. The black high school was similarly merged with the white high school. All the kids in the district now became classmates for their entire school career. It was a great step forward toward desegregation and unity within the community.

As a retired teacher and parent of five children who are graduates of Juneau-Douglas High School, I was quite surprised when I saw the Juneau Empire dismiss the single high school, two campus plan. In my view, this plan stands out as being far superior to all the other options

Much of the remaining portions of the Empire editorial made sense and appeared to further strengthen the argument for a single high school on two campuses. The Empire cites choice as being essential for school success. Having a single high school obviously provides students the most choices for noncore curricula as well as extra-curricular activities. Furthermore, the Empire explained why two schools separated geographically or two schools separated by "career track" would be poor choices.

Next, the Empire goes on to encourage the Juneau School District to "develop different focuses and courses for each school, then allow students to choose between them." This sounds to me like two schools essentially separated by "career track," an option the Empire opposed. If not, then the class scheduling and transportation management of students would seem to invite an administrative nightmare.

The one high school concept permits far more academic and vocational enrichment offerings than two small schools.

The one high school concept fosters school and community unity. Activities such as sports teams, bands, orchestras, choirs and the myriad of other extracurricular activities currently offered at JDHS would be considerably less expensive to offer at one school than two.

One high school with a freshman-sophomore and junior-senior campus split greatly reduces any transitional apprehension among freshmen who might feel intimidated by the age differences present upon entering high school. We would have graduates of two middle schools making the transition into a single school setting where about half the population came from their own middle school or just one class ahead.

This is a very important long-term issue for Juneau. The 35-member Advisory Committee appointed by the Juneau School Board will finalize its recommendation today.

• Jack Cadigan is a retired teacher and local businessman.

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