Providing more academic options for students has been an emphasis of the Cambridge City School District for the past five years. The goal is to provide students with more choices to help them forward their academic careers.
“Several years ago, the school district attempted to stabilize our financial situation by cutting programs and classes,” Superintendent Dan Coffman said. “It was a difficult time and tough decisions had to be made. What I believe we learned from that experience is that ‘we can’t cut our way to prosperity.’”
In the past few years, CCSD has brought back or added new programs and classes in addition to wrap-around services and student support services. But the academic offerings are what stands out as the district heads into the 2021-2022 school year.
At the Middle School, principal Heath Hayes is implementing a plan to give students more options while in Middle School and more flexibility when scheduling high school courses. Eighth grade students who meet academic requirements will be able to take high school courses this fall.
“This is not new, but we have never offered this many options,” Principal Hayes said. “It gives students a head start on their graduation requirements and will add flexibility when they are scheduling courses in the future.”
Completing Algebra I or earning a technology or fine arts requirement while in Middle School, will allow a student time to take more advanced courses in high school, to become involved in a work program, or to attend a career center. In some cases, it will allow a student the opportunity to pursue a non-school interest or activity.
High School classes being offered at the Middle School this year include advanced physical education, advanced art, choir, band, French and Spanish culture, advanced digital media – photography and digital photography. There is also a Robotics Club that is part of the Middle School STEM program that gives students the opportunity to earn High School credits.
In order to take a high school level class in 8th grade, students filled out a form similar to a job application.
“We had them fill out an application because we want to make sure that they are serious about taking high school classes and that they value their education,” Hayes said. “It’s important they understand that these classes are for a high school credit and will stay on their high school transcript.
“This is an opportunity to give students a head start for post-graduation as well,” Hayes continued. “We are blessed to have staff in house at our High School that gives us the opportunity to capitalize on this opportunity. I also want to thank Principal Bunting and high school counsellor Rod Gray as well as (former Middle School counsellor) Kristen Trimmer for making this happen.”
In addition to the high school course offerings, there are several other new opportunities at the Middle School this year.
In the life skills course, teachers will be incorporating Dave Ramsey’s financial literacy curriculum that provides a foundation for personal finance for students teaching them the difference between credit and debit, how to write a check, the importance of a savings account, and what is insurance.
Seventh graders will be able to learn about planting and gardening as a club is being established to take advantage of the greenhouse that was built outside the school a few years ago.
“We want to have activities that students are interested in,” Hayes said. “I believe the greenhouse will be popular.”
Hayes also believes the STEM offering will become more popular this school year. According to Hayes, STEM teacher Angie Hannon will be teaching two different STEM classes for each grade level that will include design and modeling, flight and space, and robotics.
The Middle School also will bring back a rotation of four “specials” and will be adding another class that teaches study skills, technology skills, reading skills and current events.
There also will be a designated time each day for intervention. The intervention will be specific to needs of each child.
“I believe the number one thing you have to do for an effective Middle School is to have time for intensive intervention,” Hayes said. “This needs to be time that is structured and addresses the needs of the students.”
Another area of increased opportunities will be in the Career Exploration class that is focused on teaching 8th grade students about career opportunities and what types of training they will need to pursue specific careers.
“We want to provide our students with all kinds of options,” Hayes said. “At this age, they probably don’t know what they want to be when they grow up or what it takes to be successful in that career. Our job is to help them figure out what they are interested in and make sure they have the skills needed to be successful.”
And that fits with the overall goal of the school district when it comes to academics.
“Providing more options for students at both the High School and the Middle School provides them with more opportunities to explore and experience more potential options for their futures,” Superintended Coffman said. “We are offering many opportunities that we were not offering five years ago. I am excited about the additional academic offerings now available, but this is only the beginning as we plan to continue to add options for our students.”
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series about new offerings at Cambridge Schools.