Alternative High School moving, narrowing to juniors and seniors
LONG BEACH - With the three-week countdown to the start of the new school year having begun, teachers and administrators of the Ocean Beach School District's two relocated schools are trying to get situated before the first bell rings.
"We're trying to make sense of it all," said Lynn Dickerson as she assessed the messy scene that made up the new office at Ocean Beach Elementary (formerly known as Long Beach Elementary) last week.
Dickerson, who worked as the secretary at Ocean Park Elementary, has been relocated, along with the teachers, students and principal, to the consolidated school in Long Beach for this year.
To help accommodate the school's increased population - twice as many students as last year - the adjacent building, former home of Tlohon-nipts Alternative School, has been given to the elementary to house third-grade classes. That means that the alternative school had to find a new site as well, at 1517 N. Pacific Ave.
"We're fortunate because it's a wonderful building on the Peninsula with lots of light," said Tlohon-nipts Principal Fred Dust.
But due to the reduced capacity of the smaller building, the school will have to reduce its class size - from an average of 50 students, down to 30. The program will also only be available to junior and senior students. Dust said that in some ways, restricting itself to upper classes will be good for the program.
"It allows us to reduce the number of classes we have to offer [only junior and senior graduation requirement classes]," he said. "It becomes a little more manageable."
He said in doing that, the school will focus more on "high school and beyond," including increased connections with Clatsop Community College. Dust emphasized that serving the needs of teen parents will still be the alternative school's top priority.
"A central part of our mission is that teen parents will be able to finish school," said Dust.
One way they will accommodate teen fathers and mothers will be with the newly remodeled Small Song Child Care Center. Though it is located behind the former Tlohon-nipts building on Washington Ave., Dust said they will work to make the child care facility convenient for the students using it to be near their kids.
"What we'll be doing is really arranging the schedule to accommodate that," he said. "Of course, being on the bus line, we can arrange it around that. We can accommodate them; we just have to schedule wisely."
In setting up the schedule for the coming school year, Dust is interviewing potential students - including those who have been enrolled in the program in the past.
"Because we're shrinking in size, we want them to re-interview," said Dust of the students. "We also want to tell them how the program will change."
They will be holding interviews on Thursday, Aug. 21 and Friday, Aug. 22. Dust asks that interested students call 642-1292 to schedule interviews. The interviews will take place only a week after Dust and his staff begin to move into the new facility on Aug. 15.
"It's going to be mighty busy," he said. "Around the clock until school starts."
At Ocean Beach School, the move-in is almost complete after more than a week of work. One of the few physical changes at the school is the remodeled administrative area. The office, formerly quite small, has been expanded by moving to the space next door which housed a kindergarten classroom.
Bette Arne, who will move into the role of principal for the consolidated school, actually set up her office in the tiny space that once was the office for the entire school. The new office will be home base for both Dickerson and Long Beach School secretary Linda Ramsey.
"Lynn and I working together, combining ideas and office procedures, it's been really fun," said Ramsey.
They ran into a few snags while moving into the bigger space last week - not enough electrical outlets or phone jacks - but figured to be ready to go this week. One of the most important tasks is the process of combining the students from both schools onto one computer system.
"The biggest challenge has been the office," said Arne of the move. "We're combining records and materials and furniture from two buildings."
Arne went on to say that the custodial staff has been key to the success of the move.
All but one of the incumbent teachers at the school got to keep their original classrooms. This was not the case for teachers from Ocean Park School who are in the process of moving in and setting up their new rooms.
"It's a good thing there's hair dye," said Ocean Beach School teacher Miki Frace, "because I'm going to need it when I'm through."
Frace, who was a first grade teacher at Ocean Park School, is taking over for the retired Kay Chabot as a kindergarten teacher at Ocean Beach School.
"It's all the excitement of a new job, without the insecurity of employment," joked Frace as she pushed desks and shelves across the old wooden floor of her new classroom.
Setting up a classroom from scratch is something that Frace has not had to do for many years. She started out as a kindergarten teacher at Ocean Park in 1986, and only moved her class once when moving up to teach first grade.
As she looked over the small chairs stacked on top of each other and cabinets resting on their sides, Frace realized all that she would have to accomplish within the four walls of her class before school starts on Sept. 2. And though a bit flustered by the whole process, Frace said, "It's really exciting. It's good to shake yourself up."
Not so much a shake up, but a blending, will be key to the success of the school this year - and next year when the school population will move into the remodeled Ocean Park School during winter break.
Both Ocean Park and Long Beach schools had approximately 140 students each at the end of last school year. This year, the consolidated Ocean Beach School will start with approximately 250 students.
"It's going to work fine," said an optimistic Arne. "The school will be about the size of Hilltop."
For a kindergarten through third-grade configuration, the maximum size is supposed to be 23 students per class. Right now, Arne said the administration expects to have two third-grade classes with 26 students each and one with 25, as well as one second-grade class with 26 students and another with 25.
"We're going to be over, but we knew in the beginning that we might be," said Arne. "If that becomes a problem or we get more students, we'll have to look at perhaps hiring another teacher. But things change. People move and people come in at the last minute."
Scheduling, including lunch and library time, is an issue that Arne said will have to work in order for things to go well. She said they also have to fit in 230 minutes a week of planning time for each teacher.
"I've worked out a pretty good schedule for the teachers," said Arne.
She said she was confident that the staff was professional enough to make it all work, adding that the teachers relish the challenge before them.
"We have a very strong primary team," she said. "I think the teachers from both schools are looking forward to the opportunity of working together.
"We know it's temporary," she said. "The end results are so exciting that we can jump right over these challenges. You know, you can do anything for a year."