Principal Jerimiah Ames explains how to the School Committee how Hoosac Valley High is working to retain students entering Grade 9.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Administrators in the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District on Monday night rolled out a strategy to retain eighth-graders approaching high school.
The School Committee heard from Hoosac Valley High School Principal Jerimiah Ames, who after going through the current state of the districtwide turnaround plan, briefed the committee on what the district is doing to keep these middle school students in the district.
"Eighth-graders may go somewhere else and there are a lot of great programs out there, but a lot of them do come back," Ames said. "I think it is because of the programming we offer, and we have to keep working hard to get the message out there, so they don’t take the long road and stay with us."
The district has seen a hemorrhage of students over the past few years with many choosing to enter Grade 9 outside the district, such as at McCann Technical School.
Ames said one of the main strategies behind the plan is to include the eighth-graders in more high school experiences since they are located on the Hoosac Valley campus.
Periodically throughout the year, eighth-grade classes will split up and as small groups visit high school classrooms.
"The idea is throughout the year every eighth-grade student will spend time and have a legitimate experience in a high school classroom," the principal said. "It will give them a sense of what the classes are like."
Ames said eighth-graders will be welcomed into many high school activities, such as pep rallies, dances and undergraduate award night.
"Eighth-graders historically were not part of the high school and they are not involved in the dances. We made the decision to include them," he said. "They are high school students."
Ames said he was privy to some of the concerns of parents and teachers on these younger students mingling with high schoolers at dances, but he felt there was nothing to worry about.
He said there will still be events purely for eighth-graders
They will also now go through a program with guidance counselors who will help them begin thinking about careers.
"They talk about their interests and occupations they may have heard of and how these things relate to classes we offer at the high school," Ames said.
He added that in the spring, the counselors will help the students pick out classes and electives for their freshman year.
"I think this is going to be big and will be our chance to show students what we have," Ames said. "We can show them all the electives we offer that other schools don't. We really stand out in that region and I am proud of those offerings. We fight for them every year and they really make our program rich."
Eighth-graders will be involved in some high school trips as well – such as an upcoming Washington, D.C., trip.
In other business, School Committee member Darlene Rodowicz said the Audit and Evaluation Subcommittee has seen an early draft of the fiscal 2019 budget.
"The good news is that the business manager and the superintendent seem to have a good handle on the direction the district is going, and it seems like we are moving in a good direction financially," she said.
Before starting the meeting, Ames awarded high school student Jenna Charron with an award of excellence in participation for attending the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders in June.
"Thank you for all the hard work you put into being this kind of student and representing a lot of other students like you who do great things in school and beyond," he said.
Ames said the event is competitive and attendees must be nominated for the program put on by the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists.
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