While the little fish had already been swimming in the new pond for two days, the big fish got their turn Friday evening.
Students in the inaugural class of Waxahachie Global High officially began their three-day Quest Fest orientation on Wednesday. Friday evening, it was time for the parents to take their seat in the classroom at the renovated Wilemon campus, which will serve as home for Global High.
With both faculty and students donning “Property of Global High Charter Member” T-shirts, parents filled the auditorium to learn about their freshman’s new school and a brand new journey in education.
Two years ago Waxahachie ISD board of trustees approved moving forward with the Global High concept.
Indeed, Global High is unlike the traditional public high school. Enrollment is limited to 100 students per grade to ensure small class sizes. The students are selected by lottery from a pool of registered eighth-graders. Curriculum is heavily focused on science, math, technology and engineering, with an emphasis on technology during a 10-period course load.
Each student will be assigned his or her own laptop and backpack case, which will be used both in the classroom and at home. Some classes also will be augmented by off-campus instructors who will provide lessons via electronic classrooms.
With small class sizes, the campus has employed a team approach to education to ensure each student excels in his or her studies. While geared toward preparing students to enter college, Global High will also focus on community. Each class will have its own senior project in which students will undertake an endeavor to benefit the community.
And while students will be offered a variety of extra-curricular activities, UIL athletics, band, drill team and cheerleading are not available.
In addition to district funds, Global High is funded through numerous grants, including Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Texas Education Agency, Office of the Governor and Communities Foundation of Texas.
“I am so excited to be here,” Headmaster Porche Butler said as she welcomed the room full of parents. “It’s been an exciting week and I’m sure your children have already shared with you some of the exciting things we’ve done during Quest Fest.
“Instead of calling it ‘Fish Camp’ for incoming freshmen, we decided to name it Quest Fest because your students — all of us actually — are embarking on a journey to help your children excel, in school and in life,” Butler said.
During the first ever Quest Fest, students were required to complete a questionnaire on what they learned, liked and disliked about the orientation program.
Several of the responses were read to parents, with numerous positive comments on the YMCA ropes course, a team-building program that taught students how to work together and problem solve.
“I know that many of you have met April Moon, our introduction to engineering instructor,” Butler told the parents. “One of the great things about this course is that it teaches problem-solving. That’s what engineers do, they solve problems. Regardless of what your child does in life, it is important for them to learn problem-solving skills. That’s why introduction to engineering is a required course for every freshman.”
While the ropes course earned high marks, the dress code policy didn’t fare as well among the students.
During the parent orientation, parents were reminded of the WISD dress code policy, which is posted on the district’s Web site.
“Your child can wear T-shirts,” Butler said. “They can wear solid-color T-shirts. They can wear WISD T-shirts. They can even wear college T-shirts — we’re all about getting the kids interested in college. But please, make sure your child comes to school properly dressed.”
Parents were also given an update on the renovation of the Wilemon campus. With the third floor complete and the first floor to be completed by or near the opening day of school, the inaugural class will only use the facilities on those two floors. The renovation of the second floor is slated for completion during Christmas break and will be placed into service when the next freshman class of 100 students enters Global High during the 2008-2009 school year.
Parents were also given a presentation on the district’s technology policy.
While Internet access is screened and filtered on all WISD campuses, parents were told that protection does not extend to their homes and parents were encouraged to monitor their child’s computer access when using the laptops at home.
And while the district purchased the more durable laptops with a three-year extended warranty, parents are responsible for purchasing an insurance policy while the laptop is assigned to their child. The insurance policy provides protection for everything except fire, flood and theft.
“We realize that these laptops are going to be used by high school kids,” Butler said. “That’s why we bought the ones that won’t break apart if they accidentally fall off a table. They’re pretty tough. And yes, your child must transport the laptop in the backpack case that goes with it.”
To alleviate parents’ concerns about having to carry books and a laptop to and from school every day, Butler said a set of text books will be available in each classroom for the students to use. When they go home, those textbooks will be available for access on their laptops.
Following the presentation, parents were invited to tour the renovated portions of the building. Quest Fest 2007 officially ended with a hotdog cookout on the lawn for students and parents, sponsored by Huckabee and Associates, the architectural firm working on the school’s renovation.
E-mail Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org