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GIPS announces updated Academy locations, information for 2019-2020

The Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education gave their consensus to move forward with plans for 2019-2020 Academy of Grand Island Senior High locations during their January retreat. The plan will see three of the Academies moved off of the main GISH campus.

“When we started the high school visioning process, one of our main tasks was solving the space issue at Grand Island Senior High,” said Board President Bonnie Hinkle. “While there is a cost associated with this new Academy location plan, it pales in comparison to the $100 million price tag for a new high school.”

Hinkle added this plan is also in line with the ultimate district vision of students who thrive.

“Our students will get real-world experience in areas of interest they choose and will have more ownership of their learning,” she said. “By having the small-school settings under the GISH umbrella - even at offsite locations - we will ensure all students are involved, whether they are high flyers, students with special needs or those students somewhere in ‘the middle’.”

Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS Superintendent, said the district is following through on the expectations of the community with an eye on the future growth.

“This plan allows us to alleviate current space issues at GISH while providing students with the educational environments and experiences they require to succeed,” Grover said. “We also expect more and more students to choose GIPS and the Academies of Grand Island Senior High, so we continue to look at additional offsite locations to accommodate future enrollment increases.”

The plan involves using two campuses GIPS already owns: Career Pathways Institute and Wyandotte Learning Center (formerly Starr Elementary, temporarily Jefferson Elementary for the remainder of this school year).

“We are able to expand CPI to hold a second Academy along with the Technical Sciences pathways already offered at the location,” said Dan Petsch, Director of Buildings and Grounds. “This summer we will reconfigure the Wyandotte Learning Center to meet the needs of high school students and the pathways we will offer there.”

All freshman are enrolled in the Academy of Freshman Exploration, which is housed in the 200 hallway at GISH. Each of the other five Academies has a location inside GISH. All sophomores will stay on the GISH campus. Juniors and seniors who are a part of the Academies at the offsite locations will spend time every other day at those locations.

“Our current plan is to have Juniors and Seniors at their Academy campus for an entire day, either on an A day or a B day,” said Dr. Josh McDowell, Chief Transformation Officer. “We will house some core classes at the Academy campuses - math, English, social studies - with hopes to make the day more convenient for students.”

McDowell recognized this will be the design, but only a starting point.

“We absolutely know some students will have personalized schedules requiring them to be at the Academy campus for only half a day,” McDowell said. “Whether it is for band, show choir, an AP class or an elective offered at another location, we will make sure students have the flexibility in their schedule to be where they need to be.”

Jeff Gilbertson, GISH principal, agreed.

“We can’t stress enough how important it is for students and parents to push us,” he said. “We will work with students to make sure they are taking the classes to fit their personalized plan. This may seem like a difficult task for us, but that’s ok - it’s about the student experience.”

Academy Locations

All freshman are enrolled in the Academy of Freshman Exploration, which is housed in the 200 hallway at GISH.

“We’ve seen a positive culture change this year with freshmen,” Gilbertson said. “Having their classes grouped together with less hallway to cover has been a stress reducer. We’re looking forward to replicating this small-school-within-a-school experience for all students.”

The Academy of Education, Law & Public Safety will be housed at GISH in the east hallway of the 500 wing. It will also have an Academy campus at the Wyandotte Learning Center.

“We will make some reconfigurations to create larger learning spaces,” Petsch said. “In addition, we will update the entrances for the new usage. The building will remain a safe learning environment.”

Some of the reconfigurations will allow for what McDowell calls “exciting learning spaces.”

“We’ll have space for a Law & Public Safety students to have a crime scene investigation lab,” he said. “It will also have flexible, collaborative learning areas - much like we see on college campuses.”

The Academy of Engineering & Technology will be housed at GISH in the west end of the 300 wing and at a new section of CPI.

“This is another exciting space,” McDowell said. “We are working on getting a series of flight simulators installed for the aviation pathway students. We are going to have engineering lab space for students. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

The Academy of Business & Communication will be housed in the west hallway of the GISH 500 wing for all students.

The Academy of Technical Sciences, which includes four of the five current pathways offered at CPI (Information Technology is the other, which is in the Academy of Engineering & Technology and will remain where it is currently located), will remain at CPI as well as the GISH 100 wing. Welding will remain at Central Community College.

The Academy of Medical Sciences will be housed in the east end of the GISH 300 wing with additional classes in 100 wing and Alumni Hallway.

“We will continue to seek long-term solutions for the Academies remaining at GISH,” Hinkle said. “We know we will continue to grow as more and more students learn about the experiences offered at the Academies of Grand Island Senior High.”

Transportation

With having more students at Academy locations off the GISH campus, more transportation will be provided.

“We will expand the bus routes we already offer to offsite locations to meet these needs,” said Dr. Robin Dexter, Associate Superintendent. “We’ve had success with getting students to their classes for six years and look forward to growing the GISH campus across town.”

Transportation will continue to be offered between GISH and the Academy campuses before and after school and during the lunch block. They will also be offered as needed by students during the school day.

The bus routes are not required for students. If a student prefers to drive themselves to their Academy campus, they are allowed, as has been the case in the past.

Activities

As has been stated from the beginning, Dr. Grover made clear the Academy system will offer new opportunities for students without taking away experiences.

“If a student is active in the arts, AP classes or any other activity, we will make sure they continue to have the same opportunities going forward,” she said. “It does not matter which Academy campus a student spends time at, each student has access to the full slate of AP classes, fine arts offerings and extracurricular activities available at GISH. This experience does not change. Instead, we will continue to grow the opportunities for involvement.”

The Academies started in August 2018 with all grade nine students in the Academy of Freshman Exploration. Current sophomores and juniors will join these freshman next year in the pathways they all selected in November. All students at GISH going forward will be a part of an Academy.

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