A Fresh Start

Members of Jamestown Public Schools’ Class of 2017 will be participating in a new “bridge program” aimed at easing their transition into becoming high school students.

According to Mike McElrath, Jamestown High School principal, the program was developed by the school’s shared decision-making team as a means of providing incoming freshman with the resources to help them be successful students.

“We’ve found there was a need for more work with our incoming ninth-graders to make sure that we spend the time with them; so they’re familiar with the rules, they understand where the resources are in the building and who they can go see for academic help, counseling or medical needs,” McElrath said. “We also want to spend time with them this year making sure they understand what different avenues and directions they can take. Making sure they’re familiar with the different courses we offer, and that they’ve had a chance to explore some different careers so they can make some better choices.”

The bridge program is also intended to promote better study skills and time management skills through the use of schedule planners, which will be provided to students.

In order to achieve these goals, McElrath said the entire freshman class – which currently consists of 381 enrolled students – will be split up into groups of 12 to participate in a five-week class with approximately 25 teachers. The class will be held in the last period of the day, and will provide an interactive setting to discuss several topics. The topics, according to McElrath, include: school policies; how to use the provided schedule planners for better time management; the concept of Raider pride; how to navigate the building, including activities to assist with that; proper note-taking and test-taking methods; athletics and clubs; and graduation requirements.

“This is actual purposeful work that will be done in small groups, and this is the part of the curriculum that the large portion of teachers will do for the first five weeks,” said McElrath. “We felt that this is important stuff that we didn’t want to wait and spread throughout the year.”

Following the five-week classes, students will then have an additional six to eight sessions throughout the remainder of the school year, which will provide a more in-depth look at study skills and exploring career avenues, along with other components. The sessions will be taught by JHS teachers Kimberly Sutter and Charles McKenna, whom McElrath said have been lead organizers of the bridge program.

As a precursor to the school year, the incoming freshman class attended orientation sessions at the high school on Thursday. The sessions offered students a head start on the bridge program by allowing them to meet with their respective guidance counselors, complete their class schedules and tour the building with members of JHS’ honor society.

According to Ashley Noon, a JHS guidance counselor, the orientation sessions are not mandatory but are recommended.

“I would say, by far, almost everybody comes,” Noon said. “Because they’re anxious to get their schedules. And they want to see who they’re eating lunch with and who their teachers are. And we really try to promote (orientation) because the kids that come here to get their schedules have a much easier first week of school.”