Charting progress at new GCHS

8/28/2012

The road to the new Garden City High School had its share of bumps and turns.

The road to the new Garden City High School had its share of bumps and turns.

Twice — in 1998 and 2000 — local voters rejected plans to build a second high school proposed to meet the needs of a growing student population.

With growth showing no signs of slowing, school officials tried a different pitch: a new high school to replace the crowded, insufficient Main Street facility.

Voters in 2008 saw that as a better option than two high schools in the city, and narrowly approved a $97.5 bond issue for a new school facilities plan, the centerpiece of which was a high school estimated at $92.5 million.

In voting to move forward with such a significant investment, voters embraced the need to erase a number of problems with a high school that could no longer accommodate the student population.

For example, supporters of a new high school wanted something better for local students than using mobile classrooms many years after they were put in place as a temporary solution.

Another sign of the space crunch was in the cafeteria, as some students ended up eating lunch in stairwells.

A policy that allowed students to leave campus for lunch didn't do much to ease the problem. Now, with ample cafeteria space at the new GCHS, the school has eliminated open lunch, which too often led to students skipping classes for the remainder of the day.

The most pressing concern at the old high school was safety, as the building had more than 50 entrances and exits. Those who questioned the need for a new GCHS at least should embrace its tighter security.

Another notable opportunity came in blending a new building layout and innovative curriculum strategy.

The new GCHS followed a national trend toward academies of learning by creating the Academy of Trade and Health Science, Academy of Arts and Communications, Academy of Public Service and Ninth Grade Academy.

Such a setup provides a bridge between education and career planning, a strategy focusing on academic and technical areas that also promises to deliver more of the workforce development education the community needs.

Having ninth-graders in their own learning academy also makes sense.

The uneasy transition into high school has caused the dropout rate for freshmen nationwide to soar in recent decades. Helping students avoid the costly mistake of dropping out has been a priority for years in Garden City, and rightly so.

Of course, it's easy to be encouraged by the potential of a new high school so early on. Moving forward, district patrons need to know how their investment has paid off.

Some have had doubts all along, and their suspicions only escalated with decisions to add a concession stand and restroom facility at the new football field, and purchase iPads for GCHS students.

Even though the moves were made knowing the high school construction was coming in under budget, some district patrons were miffed because those ventures weren't part of the original plan presented to voters.

With that in mind, we need school officials to spell out the value of the investment by sharing progress reports on how local education has improved, to include graduates being better equipped to enter college or the workforce, fewer freshmen dropping out, and other gains.

The new high school was needed in Garden City. Look for proof to come as the school district and community benefit from the bold, impressive plan to more effectively blend the educational effort and school setting.

Email Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.

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