Administration seeks methods to accommodate coming transition


Ready for Battle: In apprehension of the opening of four-year Muriel Williams Battle High School next fall, the current high schools have been making changes to accommodate for the incoming of freshmen next year. Photo by Paige Kiehl.

Alyssa Sykuta

Ready for Battle: In apprehension of the opening of four-year Muriel Williams Battle High School next fall, the current high schools have been making changes to accommodate for the incoming of freshmen next year. Photo by Paige Kiehl.
Ready for Battle: In apprehension of the opening of four-year Muriel Williams Battle High School next fall, the current high schools have been making changes to accommodate for the incoming of freshmen next year. Photo by Paige Kiehl.
For Columbia Public Schools, 2012 presents the end of an educational system and brings to light a new era of education. The opening of Muriel Williams Battle High School Aug. 20, 2013 will not only mark the beginning of a three high school district, but also the implementation of a four-year high school system.

Out of the 1,800 students attending RBHS next fall, nearly 900 freshmen and sophomores will face the challenges that come with a new building, new rules, new classes and new people. However, instead of crossing their fingers and hoping everything works out for the best, administration and district personnel have been taking measures to make sure everything is ready for the first day of next school year.
RBHS Principal Mark Maus said with the passing of the school district’s bond in 2010, CPS district-level employees and administration sat down to look at the options a third high school and four-year system could offer. Maus said beginning discussions nearly three years in advance allowed the district time to work out as many potential problems as possible that the transition could throw their way.
“The biggest reason to plan so far in advance is there’s always things that come up that you don’t anticipate,” Maus said. “So the more that you can plan and the more that you have conversation, have discussion about what’s coming, the better you can anticipate when something unknown comes up, the better you can meet that challenge.”
Though the groundbreaking of BHS began in June 2010, RBHS and Hickman High School experienced constructive changes as well, most noticeably the new gymnasiums. Maus said the addition of space to the high schools is critical in providing for the new students and courses the schools will provide to cater to the freshmen’s course requirements. This need for more classrooms led the district to look into adapting more wireless technologies, especially now that all the schools have easily-accessible Wi-Fi.
“Our science classrooms now all have, I believe, 15 new netbook computers and we’ve looked at purchasing more and more mobile labs, because we’ll be so big next year, we’re going to have to look at where we can add some additional classroom space,” Maus said. “Our wrestling room will eventually move over to underneath the new gym, so what can we do with that space? And … also do we have any [computer] labs that we may repurpose for classroom space?”
Maus said the changeover will force changes in every department at RBHS; for this reason, RBHS teachers turned in transition reports to the administration regarding foreseeable changes within their divisions with the invasion of freshmen and the introduction of an entirely new environment at the high school.
Major changes include advisory for freshmen and sophomores, rethinking the open campus lunch policy and the provision of an extra day before the beginning of the fall semester for the new students to acquaint themselves with the school.

Infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
Infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
“The district’s going to have a jump-start day where all new students — for us that will be ninth and tenth graders — will come in for half a day before the first day of school. And a lot of that’s just about acclamation: how does the lunch line work, where do I stand, is there a ‘West Walk,’ do I have to sit in the cafeteria?” Maus said. “In general, [it’s] just getting to know the building, because it’s a big building and easy to get lost in.”
As RBHS goes through with changes to gear up for the coming school year, HHS principal Tracey Conrad said the North side of town has also been adapting. They also utilized transition reports to hear teacher input  as to how courses will change. Also, students at HHS created councils to gain input about making a smooth transition.
“Hickman has been going through similar steps to prepare for the ninth grade students,” Conrad said in an email interview. “We have a ninth grade transition team and student support leadership team, which is dedicated to the transition.”
While many teachers are figuring out how their departments and courses will change in the coming year, others, such as RBHS Assistant Band Director Robert Thalhuber, are designing courses altogether, preparing for different responsibilities the new high school requires. Thalhuber will take on a new role as the band director at BHS next fall, a professional move he looks forward to and finds exciting, but one that also comes with a lot of stress.
“With a band program, there’s so many different intricate things that have to interact, and if you forget one there’s like a Domino Effect,” Thalhuber said. “So it’s always trying to think ahead and put yourself at a place in time and think, ‘What am I going to need? What are the students going to need? What should I be doing in order to make sure that when the doors open, everything is going to be smooth?’ … And I think everybody’s the same way, whether it’s the administration, whether it’s Coach [Justin] Conyers getting ready with the football team or whether it’s a teacher getting ready for teaching different classes … it’s hard to think of every single detail.”
Though BHS will open in less than a year and a hoard of 14 and 15-year-olds will soon walk through the doors of RBHS on their way to “English 9,” Maus believes the district will have any kinks in the system worked out well before then. He believes district employees are more than ready for the change to occur and has faith that things will be up and running in time for the start of the fall semester. The years of planning and countless hours spent pouring over details will finally pay off.
“We’ll be ready to go, and I really feel like most of our staff is comfortable with the change coming, and not only comfortable but looking forward to it,” Maus said. “I think they feel that ninth graders at Rock Bridge is the way to be. And we really look forward to having those students for four years instead of three, and we really think it will be a positive to Rock Bridge.”
By Alyssa Sykuta
battle-logoThis is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.