Students leave Springfield High School at the end of the school day. Bill Lackey/Staff

Springfield to drop high school academies, add time for counselors

The Springfield City School District will move forward with plans to make changes at the high school for the 2017-2018 school year, including eliminating academies and re-organizing administrators at the school.

The school will add a focus period to student’s weekly schedule and hire an additional school guidance counselor, Superintendent Bob Hill told board of education members this week.

“We are looking at counselor assignments being divided out alphabetically,” Hill said. “That would allow the counselors to stay with the students for all four years of high school, which is very, very important.”

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The high school will no longer be broken up into five thematic academies — Science, Technology, Engineering, Applied Arts, Math; health and human services; visual and performing arts; business and law; and digital media and communications.

Rather it now will use a more traditional structure and students will use pathways to choose classes and obtain credits and certifications.

One of the top reasons district leaders want to change the academic structure of the school is because they believe counselors currently don’t have enough time to reach each student now. Counselors are assigned to an academy and are responsible for each student in their group. However, the academies aren’t evenly distributed, causing some counselors to have more students than others.

Leaders have tried to spread out the students, but said their efforts haven’t been successful. Making sure every student gets individual attention by the counselors is a top priority moving forward, Hill said.

Hill has tasked High School Secondary Education Director Marvin Jones to work with counselors to develop a framework to use with students.

“This will be instrumental in ensuring that we don’t miss things,” Hill said. “They will have calenders, they will have checklists and expectations for how many (interactions) they will have with students on a monthly basis. This will be truly personalized education.”

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To make sure each student is getting to spend time with teachers and counselors, the school will also add a focus period. That period will happen once a week before lunch, Hill said. It will be about 50 minutes and the school will gain that time by shortening the other classes by about five minutes.

This time will aim to provide academic intervention for all students, he said, to make sure they are on the right path to pass their classes and to graduate.

“The core belief of the focus period team was that it will be a time for meaningful relationship building between adults and all students, absolutely necessary to ensure success,” Hill said.

“We have students that are not at level and we are going to identify their needs,” he said. “It is another tool to help them.”

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The new structure will include a lead principal. The district hired Patrick Smith for that role last month. It will also include three assistant principals and possibly three deans.

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