Let's see the positive potential of Thunder Mountain High School

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2007

With news of the Thunder Mountain High School, most of the media attention and community discussions seem negative and even paranoid that the Juneau School District is not taking the community's concerns into account.

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"Bears eat falcons," said a classmate in my English class. "They say there is something for everyone, but sometimes, there's not. Thunder Mountain is simply a bad idea."

I understand people's concerns about the school, but I think we also need to see the positive potential of having two schools and not get mired in unavoidably tough decisions.

I am a ninth-grader, who hopes to attend TMHS for the next three years. I am excited about a modern, updated facility; more opportunities for extra-curricular activities; a smaller overall school-size; and the relevancy that academies can potentially offer.

One major group of students in Juneau that is very hesitant toward the idea of the new school is made up of student-athletes. This group of high school students are growing more troubled with the issue of sports at the new school. At the moment Juneau has one of the best athletic programs in the state, so well-matched competition is hard to come by. Oddly, even with all of these amazing teams, we don't have much school spirit or loyalty. If there were two schools in Juneau then both teams and schools would have to work harder to out-do the other; this could create immense school pride and positive competition.

An additional reason to be thankful for the coming of Thunder Mountain is that more players can participate. Currently five boys and five girls from Juneau can play basketball on the court at one time. When we have a new school, it will double the amount of players competing and increase playing time for everyone. This is true with all sports, and athletes of all ages should be thankful instead of ungrateful for the opportunity to spend more time doing what they enjoy. Funding will be an issue, but the two schools can play each other and may need to travel less.

Another issue students have problems with is the idea of academic academies. A concern brought up is that gifted kids may not be challenged. This is not true.

Students of all types will have the opportunity to choose what they want to learn - with some guidelines, of course. These academies let students experience their potential career.

Instead of reading a book about the care of water mammals, for example, they actually would go into the community and physically do the work. This gives students hands-on learning, relevant to what they want to do as an adult. Students will be able to switch academies, and they are certainly not forced to commit to a permanent career path like many fear. Academies may focus our youth and help them succeed in their futures.

An additional trepidation is the separation of friends, and a split community similar to the situation between Dzantik'i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools. This is a legitimate concern but, in my opinion, it will make both high schools more independent. The new high school will create a closer atmosphere in both schools. There will be the same teacher-student ratio, but the overall numbers in each school will decrease significantly, making it much easier to get to know your peers and have a closer relationship with teachers and administrators.

The complaining is coming from shared concern for what is best for our community. I believe that if all these groups work mutually TMHS will be a huge success in Juneau.

• Emily King is a ninth-grader in Ali McKenna's Juneau-Douglas High School English class. She is a member of student council and founder of JDHS Students Take Action Now Darfur group, which raises awareness and funds to fight genocide. She enjoys entertaining McKenna with her antics in class and is excited about possibly attending the new school next year.

From the Hallways is a monthly column showcasing the thoughts and opinions of students in McKenna's high school journalism class and Sarah Brooks' Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School writing workshop.

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