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Hampton High School academic redesign to be explored

| Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, 11:30 p.m.
Hampton Township High School
Hampton Township High School

An academic redesign for the high school curriculum and its students is being studied at the Hampton Township School District.

The process will provide an intense look on possible ways the current curriculum, school day and building could be modified to provide for a deeper learning experience for its students, according to a presentation by high school Principal Dr. Marguerite Imbarlina.

She was joined by Superintendent Dr. Michael Loughead, Curriculum Director Dr. Jaquelyn Removcik, and high school assistant principals Michael Amick and Joshua Cable, who all addressed the school board at its Feb. 12 meeting.

Faculty committees are being formed this spring to study key areas and engage stakeholders. By summer, Imbarlina said they'll update the school board on their progress. The committees will continue to work in the fall with hopes of providing a final report of findings to the board by November, she said.

After attending the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which looked ahead to 2025, Loughead said employers expressed there is an increasing importance of employees having “soft skills,” which refer to communication, accountability, time management, professionalism and critical thinking.

Ways to implement and support deeper learning include creating spaces for students to collaborate on ideas or to design. And flexible space would provide for different teaching experiences, such as science and music in one area.

There are some rooms that provide for design and collaboration now, such as the wood and metal shops, but are limited and always in demand, she said.

They may also look into introducing flexible time in regard to the current school day, which could include a change to the school day start, hybrid scheduling of online and brick-and-mortar teaching, or longer period lengths with less classes in the day.

The current practice for high school students is nine 40-minute periods.

The team also stressed establishing partnerships with local businesses and the community could provide students with real-world opportunities such as externships or working with outside partners on real-world problems.

Cable said the district currently partners with places like the Consortium for Public Education, which teams up students with local businesses.

With talks of a possible high school renovation, this academic redesign could play a part in what is planned. Imbarlina provided a video of congested hallways which students have four minutes between classes to navigate, something they do multiple times a day.

“What better spaces could we have at the high school that could facilitate better learning,” questioned Imbarlina.

Some students are already exploring ways to solve real-world projects on their own. Recently, high school students designed and built an arm for a middle school student trumpeter who needed it to play, she said.

“That is real-world learning. They had a problem and solved it. And the kids loved doing it,” said Imbarlina.

There is also a need for more social-emotional learning space. This could include a wellness hub, dedicated space to provide group counseling sessions and more, and integration of a cohesive substance abuse and suicide awareness and prevention programs.

And she indicated the need for providing more teacher professional development as well.

Regardless of what changes are proposed, educational standards will remain, as Loughead said, required course content cannot be eliminated.

“I like that we're talking about all the students being a part of this … and we're not leaving out anyone,” said Gail Litwiler, school board member. “I think looking forward is where we always need to be.”

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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