District reports north campus is working; objections remain

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By Kelsey Block
The Holt Journal

The Holt Board of Education discussed the status of the district’s new north campus during Tuesday’s meeting. The concept of a separate building for 12th-graders generated controversy when it was introduced earlier this year.

High School Principal Mike Willard told the Board that, while he knows not everyone agrees with the idea, a “north campus culture” has developed. The students are taking ownership of self-directed learning, he said.

“The teachers told me out of 25 years of teaching, this is the best year they’ve ever had,” Willard said, adding that the students have also started their own coffee business.

Superintendent Johnny Scott said the senior campus operates on a bell-less schedule and promotes a collaborative work environment.

“The whole premise that the north campus experience is designed around is creating an environment that would prepare kids for life beyond high school that would be similar to a college-like atmosphere,” Scott said.

Since the beginning of the year, the district has been working out the logistical issues associated with the north campus. Holt residents were concerned about students’ ability to get to class on time and cross the road safely. Scott said a shuttle system runs students among the campuses three times a day and students are also able to drive their cars.

“We had to work some logistics out and synchronize times on how classes would begin and end, so there were some nuances we had to work through,” Scott said. The superintendent added that he is currently pleased with the way the north campus is working.

Scott also noted that High School Principal Mike Willard rode along with a student during her commute to ensure that the students’ schedules allowed time for travel.

Holt High School senior Shayna Blust spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. Originally, Blust said she opposed the idea of a separate campus for seniors, but has since grown to love it.

“It will prepare me better than any regular high school class could,” Blust told the board. Blust plans to attend Central Michigan University next fall to study psychology and education.

“My experiences at the north campus are much quieter and intimate compared to over at the main campus where it is always loud and busy,” she later wrote to a reporter. “The only reason I was against the switch at the beginning was because of the questions that couldn’t be answered early in the process but have now been answered and figured out.”

Not everyone in the community supports the changes. Jennifer Bertram, Holt resident, said she feels the board has not been transparent about the creation of the north campus.

“I think what’s bothered me is that I’ve sort of been engaged in it since they announced it, and that what I hear and what I see in reality tend to be two quite different things,” Bertram said. Bertram said she has a son who graduated from Holt last year, as well as a daughter who is currently enrolled in the district and hates the north campus. “We saw the benefits to a ninth grade campus, it’s one of the reasons we chose Holt to begin with.”

Superintendent Scott said the administration and the board have done their best to be clear since the beginning.

“Always there has been a consistent voice that continues to seek clarity about what it is we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it,” Scott said. “It continues to generate more questions, and as we give them info it generates new questions and we continue to try to give that to them as well. We think we’re trying to be as transparent as we can and we will continue to do that.”

The future of the north campus is expected to be decided with this year’s upcoming election. Four of the board’s seven seats are up for election.

“Just like the political process, if you get a new majority, a new potential agenda could be marshaled in,” he said.

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