Holt schools work through a transformative year

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By Marina Petz
Holt Journal staff writer

Transformation, progress, renovation and reinventing are just some of the words to describe the events taking place in the Holt School District.The district found itself having to cut back $2-3 million for the upcoming school year. District officials came up with The Plan which involves the transformation of Midway Elementary into an early childhood center, the renovation of the Holt High School’s north ninth grade center and the integration of a year-round calendar for Sycamore Elementary.

Holt Chart numer0 2The renovation of the ninth grade center resulted in more publicity then the school board and first-year Holt High School Principal, Michael Willard were expecting. After rumors continued to spread about the seniors moving from main campus to north campus, the junior class of 2015 responded by holding a sit-in.

“One of my aha moments was at 6:30 a.m. on my way to work when I got a call that students of Holt High School were having a sit-in,” said Superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott. “They said you guys are having all these adult conversations but you haven’t talked to us, we want to talk to you.”
 

The sit-in stemmed from the lack of communication surrounding the north campus renovation. While the school board discussed the changes during multiple meetings, the students wanted a chance to be heard.

“They were nothing but respectful and polite, I mean it was like they just wanted an opportunity to come together as a class and show their support and opinions,” said Willard. “They asked very articulate questions and wanted answers to unanswered questions.”

The renovation of north campus will help prepare seniors for their next step, college. Changes include offering college classes for credit and capstone classes. The six different capstone courses are electives offered as a two-semester class. While some students were initially excited about the availability of classes offered through the capstone courses, parents and students realized that the classes were conflicting with other electives.

“I think the school did a good job selling the capstone programs to them because my son came home and was all excited to take a capstone,” said Kim Jacobs, parent of a junior at Holt High School. “Then he realized if he took that he couldn’t do band and we were back to square one. There’s concerns related to the capstone and if you’re in choir or band because there is a conflict.”

Holt High School parent Kim Jacobs said that if the school had posted the schedule online, like college courses, there would not have been such backlash. Holt Chart

“I pity the people who have to do my daughter’s schedule because of all the things she hopes to get,” said Amelia Barosko, parent of a junior at Holt High School. “You have to have a plan because you’re not going to get all these classes she’s looking at.”

The ultimate goal of The Plan is to restructure Holt schools without making cuts that will impact students’ education. This involves the transformation of Midway Elementary into the early childhood learning center. The center will house children from six weeks old to students entering kindergarten. The reformatting of Midway will save the district from having to pay for extra administrative and supportive staff positions such as a principal, secretary and librarian. Scott and the board say that there will be no layoffs from the change.

“We have a 94 percent attendance rating, that means nine out of 10 kids get out of bed and come to school and I think that’s because we have opportunities that the kids have found niches for,” said Scott. “We want to try to keep those opportunities and enhance them.”

Scott and the district are still presenting bids to the board regarding the costs of renovating the high school north campus. These renovations include incorporating wireless technology and renovating the north campus lunchroom from a cafeteria to a dining area. Scott says these transitions will give the building more of a college campus atmosphere. The building renovation will save an estimated $200,000.

“With our food service fund balance, where they make money, we cannot pull that into the general fund and use it, that’s illegal,” said Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services Scott Szpara. “The state asked us to take those profits and upgrade our food dining areas and we do that every year.”

The overall restructuring of the high school and Midway center will save $500,000 a year. While board members may have overcome the challenge getting student and parent support, they still have many obstacles to tackle. While the district and contractors begin discussing bid proposals, no construction can begin until one critical decision is determined, the last day of school.

“Do you add minutes or do you add times, it is a valid question and we’re going to try and have an announcement soon,” said Scott. “The facility needs to be ready to be occupied by the upcoming school year and were going to do everything in our power to make sure that happens.”

To stay updated on all news regarding the changes happening in the Holt School District go to the Reinventing Holt Public Schools website.

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