By Courtney Kendler
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
A continuous battle has been raging between parents and Holt Public School administrators over the last two years in what is appropriately being called the “switch.”
The “switch” refers to the creation of a North Campus, which is located across the street from the high school, where only seniors have classes. The intent was for seniors to get a feel for what it would be like to navigate a college campus and to be responsible for getting to class on time.
According to Holt Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hornak, most students and teachers are in support of the stand-alone North Campus, but it’s the parents who have the most concerns.
While students seem to be more concerned about parking issues in the winter and the possibility of having open lunches, parents are most concerned over the safety of their children walking back and forth between campuses.
Jennifer Bertram, the mother of two Holt High School graduates, is just one of many parents who has outwardly protested the “switch.”
“We were passionately opposed to the plan laid out by the district…” said Bertram. “With seniors in our North Campus, there are many, many more students who are transferring between the two buildings during each and every hour of the day. It is a logistical nightmare for the students…and a safety hazard that is completely unnecessary,” she said.
While Executive Director of Curriculum and Staff Development Dr. Ruth Riddle empathizes with parents and their concern over safety, she said, “I think it’s healthy for students to learn how to navigate campuses before they leave to go to one where none of us are there to hold their hands… Overall, this is good for students.”
Riddle, who has three sons who have matriculated through Holt Public Schools, believes the “switch” will teach students how to become more independent and responsible members of society.
“My elder son wishes he had the opportunity to actually participate in a senior campus because the focus is more geared toward being prepared for college and thinking about your future,” said Riddle. “The program has allowed my younger son to become so much more responsible and independent and I feel like this is helping him with that.”
Michigan Board of Education President John Austin believes that having separate campuses aimed at preparing high school students for college is a good idea. “In general, environments that replicate postsecondary learning and remove kids from the daily drama of high school, focusing them on learning and next steps, are very good.”
Said Hornak: “We’re trying to prepare our students to be college and career ready.
“I don’t know very many people who are contesting the academic rigor behind this and I haven’t met anyone who has said ‘I don’t want you to prepare our kids’ and make them more accountable for their academics.”
Kris Henderson, whose son graduated from Holt High School in 2015, has been very happy with her experience with the district. “I feel some parents pulled their kids (from the district) just because they didn’t like the switch last year,” she said. “They are so against the change that they won’t even give it a chance.”
According to Henderson, her son was skeptical of the switch at first because his was the first class to go through the senior campus. “He ended up loving it, as did most of the students,” she said. “In my opinion, the parents of Holt Public Schools are its biggest obstacle. Unfortunately, most of the parents in our district have blinders on and don’t see the big picture.”
But, it’s not only parents who have voiced their concerns. Kaleigh Schavey, a former Holt High School student, decided it would be in her best interest to transfer to the Nexus Academy of Lansing last year after facing problems with the school administration and opposing the “switch.”
“I think the biggest problem Holt Public Schools are facing is not listening to the community members about the changes being made,” said Schavey. “Since the switch, there have been numerous problems with not being able to get to the high school on time for class…”
Holt Public Schools School Board Trustee Doug Needham agrees that there are still some kinks in the program that the school board hopes will be resolved soon.
“This (the switch) has been very controversial in the community and continues to create problems. I would like to have this issue resolved and work toward rebuilding the wounds that have occurred as a result of this switch,” said Needham.
Hornak is confident that the stand-alone senior campus will be a success and that parents and students alike will begin to see the advantages it offers.
“I believe we’re better preparing kids to not feel the shock of what freshman year feels like,” said Hornak. “We’re trying to help our community, and especially our kids, be prepared for the next level.”