Final report: 3 academies for Juneau

Proposal closes campus for younger students, includes lottery to resolve school choice conflicts

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Proposals

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• Academies: two at Thunder Mountain High School and one at Juneau-Douglas High School in the first phase.

• Small learning communities.

• Closed campus for ninth through 11th grades.

For the full recommendations and report, go to our story online at www.juneauempire.com and click on the link with the story.

Small learning communities and three academies initially offered between the city's two high schools are among the key recommendations in a 103-page report the Juneau School District released this week.

The five-member Secondary Education Planning Team constructed the final report that outlines the Next Generation plan, a blueprint for the academic curriculum and activities at the two schools after Thunder Mountain High School opens in fall 2008 in the Mendenhall Valley.

The proposal closes campus for younger students and includes a lottery to resolve conflicts arising from students who are not able to get into the school of their choice.

The report will go before the Juneau School Board for final approval.

Humanities and science are the basis of TMHS' two academy offerings. JDHS will offer one academy built around the theme of architecture, construction and engineering. Each school will add "one or two" academies during the second year of transition into two high schools, according to the report.

Students' interests and eventual choice of academies will help the district decide the theme of academies offered in subsequent years, School Board member JoAnne Bell-Graves said.

"There will be so many more choices," she said.

Bell-Graves called the 2008 offerings "a well-rounded education."

The TMHS academy called "Global Expressions: as expressed through the arts, communication and the human experience" will include classes in American literature, geometry, and history. Students will have a choice of advanced language and composition, pre-calculus, and other science electives, including advanced classes.

The course schedule includes graduation requirements and offers 40 electives from culinary arts to desktop publishing.

Students outside the one academy at JDHS will continue their education under the current model.

School Board member Margo Waring said she will look over the proposal closely to see how it affects JDHS students who remain outside the academies during the transition.

"I want to assure them that their education experience is also being upgraded," she said.

School Board President Andi Story said she was pleased to see that the committee was responsive to public input and provided a phased-in approach to academies at JDHS.

Story was encouraged to see the detailed outlines of course offerings for academies and other programs. It's what parents wanted, she said.

Depending in part on how student distribution works out, the committee recommends 20 teachers for TMHS and 37 teachers for JDHS. The document lists a breakdown of staffing recommendations for the School Board to review.

Incoming freshmen will stay on campus for lunch starting in 2008, according to the plan. Each year the closed campus will progress upward and eventually keep ninth through 11th graders on campus for lunch.

The move to close campus is a step toward reducing drug and alcohol use by students who leave for lunch, said Patti Bippus, TMHS principal and Secondary Planning Committee member.

"Open campus is risky," she said.

More than half of parents polled in a recent school district survey said they favored closing campus for ninth and 11th grades. Authors of the report said that students were "universally against the idea of a closed campus."

With the implementation of education reform, students and their families can choose which school to attend.

During a November public comment session Cindy Britton, a parent, asked the district what would happen if her daughter finds her choice of academy or school full.

"That can crush a kid," she said.

The answer in the final Next Generation plan is that preference will go to any student previously enrolled in a school or academy, then a default lottery would be held. The primary factor for the lottery is proximity to the school or program of choice, according to the plan.

Three main bus routes will serve both high schools, and shuttle buses will transport students between JDHS and TMHS. Seventeen other routes will serve schools separately. Students within one and a half miles of TMHS will be expected to walk, according to the report.



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