Ypsilanti-Willow Run district expected to reject comprehensive high school structure
A presentation Monday revealed the Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district is leaning away from a large comprehensive high school model.
Naomi Norman, director of Assessment, Planning and Research for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District; Ypsilanti Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Martin; and Willow Run teacher Debbie Swanson updated the Board of Education Monday on what their ad hoc committee on secondary education had been discussing.
The committee intends to make a formal recommendation for the board’s consideration and approval on Feb. 28. But Norman said the group wanted to share upfront with the board which direction it was leaning, as well as what its next steps will be from now until Feb. 28.
Norman said the group intends to ask the board to adopt a recommendation stating the new district will be “intentional about creating small learning communities” at the secondary level. She said small learning communities would best allow the new district to carry out its guiding principles and five educational pillars.
The women said their ad hoc committee, regrettably, does not have any parents or students serving on it. So to make up for this lack of voice, the group will be venturing out into the schools to talk to parents and students before making its formal recommendation.
A parent informational meeting and feedback session on secondary education was scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Ypsilanti Administration Building.
Monday’s presentation discussed the benefits of small learning communities compared to the comprehensive model.
In small learning communities, the focus is on the learner and learning, the committee said. Classes are a manageable size, and the size allows for improved school culture and climate, they added.
Some of the challenges of small learning communities that were identified were providing electives and varying class choices, such as Advanced Placement courses. A partnership with Washtenaw Community College was discussed as a possible solution to this challenge.
The location of the programs could be a challenge, the women said, although the committee has not yet looked at location. Martin said this challenge would not be tackled until after the board approved the recommendation. She added the communities could be co-located in one large building or separate smaller buildings or some combination of the two options.
One of the small learning communities would be a New Tech program, considering the board already approved maintaining the New Tech curriculum in some capacity. The New Tech program’s emphasis is on project-based learning.
Some of the small learning communities could be grades 7-12, others grades 9-12, the presenters said.
After the secondary education committee gives its formal recommendation on Feb. 28, it will return before the board on March 14 with some preliminary facilities ideas and recommendations.
“I like that the design is driving things as opposed to the buildings,” said board Trustee Anthony VanDerworp.
The Feb. 28 recommendation will have a “clear list of the non-negotiables,” Norman said, but added a more solid plan will be coming March 14 with ideas about how the small learning communities could be clustered, their age groups and what the learning focuses of each one could be.