Students, staff prepare for changes at Redmond High
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
August 30, 2012 · Updated 3:37 PM
Andrea Larson and Danielle Skinner were both sophomores when they learned Redmond High School (RHS) would be adding ninth graders to the population in two years' time.
While it makes sense to bring freshmen into the fold since that's when grades begin to count for college and beyond, neither knew what this would look like.
Larson even admits she was skeptical. She said the idea of bringing in an entire new class to the already-crowded RHS was overwhelming.
The addition of freshmen at the high school is part of a grade reconfiguration that will bring Lake Washington School District (LWSD) to a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 system.
Larson and Skinner are now incoming seniors and part of the school's leadership class who have been working with RHS staff and administration to prepare the school for all the changes that will take place this school year, which begins Tuesday.
"It's been a struggle for sure," Skinner said about all the planning they've had to do.
A SMOOTH TRANSITION
With the addition of freshmen to the population, half of the students at the high school will be brand new — as opposed to the previous one-third. This meant the staff and leadership students have been looking at how to make the transition for the incoming underclassmen as well as returning upperclassmen as smooth as possible.
"Being in leadership, I knew there was a lot of stuff to do," Larson said.
The group looked at every aspect of student life to see what type of effect about 450-475 additional students — for a total of about 1,860 students — would have.
One of the biggest things they have had to figure out is how to run school assemblies since the RHS gym is too small to accommodate a bigger student body.
Larson and Skinner said a couple of options they have come up with have been running assemblies twice for half of the school at a time and streaming video of assemblies live so people can watch them in their classrooms.
"The assemblies were definitely a challenge," Skinner said.
Other small changes include a passing period that is now one minute longer to make up for the increased traffic and a bigger building as RHS will also see the opening of a new wing this fall to accommodate a larger student population. Lockers in particularly tight areas have also been removed to make room for more students.
The school's new wing was built as part of a levy approved in February of 2011 to accommodate the district's growth. The two-story addition contains 14 classrooms including two science labs (above) and one art classroom. Classrooms at the end of the halls also have the ability to open up so teachers can team up and collaborate. The new wing also has a staff lounge so teachers don't have to go all the way to the other side of the school.
There will also be a new auxiliary gymnasium, which will be used for physical education classes and potential overflow during lunch if the newly expanded cafeteria becomes too crowded.
RHS associate principal Lloyd Higgins said the new gym may be used as a quiet area for students who want to study during lunch.
Higgins added that the new gym and wing were designed by the same architect who designed RHS when it was remodeled almost 10 years ago, which is why the new additions flow so well with the rest of the building.
"They really did a good job with making it seamless," he said.
A STUDENT-STAFF COLLABORATION
RHS principal Jane Todd said the leadership students have been very involved in preparing incoming students. They have visited the junior high schools last year to speak with eighth and ninth graders about high school life and answer questions.
Todd said leadership students as well as others from the greater RHS population also participated in an open house "extravaganza" event last year that was open to incoming new students and allowed them to tour the building, learn about different clubs and activities on campus and more.
In addition, Todd said a group of students also created a "student survival guide" for newcomers, which covers topics ranging from navigating the hallways to lunchtime etiquette. The guide will be distributed to students on the first day of school.
"I think students are excited about (having ninth graders on campus now)," Todd said.
NEW STAFF IN A NEW SCHOOL
While students have been working on making a smooth cultural transition, RHS staff and administration have also been working on ensuring a seamless academic transition for the incoming freshmen and sophomores.
RHS has about 25 teachers who will either be brand new this fall or have transferred from the district's junior high schools — which are now middle schools. There are about 100 teachers at RHS.
Todd said their goal was to have the school to feel fully integrated so a mix of new and veteran teachers as well as grade levels will be placed in the new wing. In addition, she said they held a Mustang family picnic and invited all employees — new and returning — and their families so everyone could get to know each other.
"It was lovely to see," Todd said. "We got to know each other as people."
RHS staff — a quarter of which is new — also attended a retreat on Monday and new teachers have been paired with returning teachers who will act as mentors throughout the school year.
Todd said their core curriculum is decided by the district, but RHS has expanded its elective options to accommodate the growing population. She added that there will be language arts and social studies teaching teams at the ninth and 10th grade levels. RHS has also added a class designed to help freshmen and sophomores prepare for college by teaching them how to take tests and other skills.
"We tried to be very thoughtful about building the foundation," Todd said about making a smooth transition and producing successful students.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at email@example.com or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.