Harding preparing for changes in 2016-17

Alternative education in the Coos Bay School District is receiving an overhaul. Harding Learning Center is currently in the process of a large change, which includes moving away from traditional education and developing new resources for teaching.

According to Harding Principal and Marshfield Assistant Principal Shelly McKnight, Harding’s current schedule is not so different from Marshfield’s.

“A normal student's schedule here now is very similar to a Marshfield schedule. They attend school from 8:00 to 3:18, seven periods a day, including intervention,” McKnight said. “The only difference between us and Marshfield in terms of the daily schedule is that we have our intervention period, which is your PAT. We have ours between second and third period.”

Next year, however, both the schedule and the teaching style will be dramatically changed.

According to McKnight, there will be fewer traditional classes and more online classes with hands-on activities like service learning or job sites.

“They will have an opportunity to perhaps attend one or two traditional classes a day and maybe take a couple of classes online and then also participate in either service learning or a job site internship,” McKnight said. “Freshmen and sophomores would have service learning as a requirement and juniors and seniors would have the job site piece as a requirement.”

According to Harding teacher Kevin Haan, the service learning and job site internships are going to be one of the biggest changes.

Haan said these out-of-classroom opportunities will provide students with useful post-school skills.

“For juniors and seniors we are going to require job sites or internships. This will give students the opportunity to get real world learning in terms of how to work in a job, the opportunity to network, and will teach them what we call ‘soft skills,’ which are things that you don't necessarily learn in a book, but are things that are useful in jobs. Things that are appealing to an employer,” Haan said.

One change that would specifically affect those at Marshfield would be the amount of students who could transfer to and attend Harding to learn in a new environment.

According to Principal Travis Howard, there will be a cap set to the number of students who can enroll from Marshfield next year.

“We’re kind of putting a cap on about 100 to 120 students enrolled down there next year,” Howard said. “That’s about 60 more than there are now.”

One obvious limitation with more students, Howard said, is that there needs to be more staff.

According to McKnight, if all goes as planned, there will be a few teaching staff hired before next year.

“It will depend on how the budget committee supports the changes. Currently we would like to add one additional teacher,” McKnight said. “We would like two more educational assistants who will help and monitor support students with their online courses.”

Teachers at Harding will be given a caseload of students who they monitor and help with problems they may have.

According to Haan, this helps the students and makes student-teacher relations more individual.

“Those teachers will have a caseload of 20 students each,” Haan said. “The teachers will be regularly meeting with their 20 students to check up on them, how they are doing on their classes, how they are doing with their independent study work, how their job site or service learning site is going.”

According to McKnight, if all these changes come to pass, Harding will transform into a more individualized learning center where students who do not excel under traditional teaching methods can blossom and flourish.

“It’ll appeal to the students that find it difficult to sit for seven hours in a classroom and it gives them some other opportunities to learn valuable life skills outside the traditional classroom setting while still having a level of rigor and academic learning that gives them an authentic high school diploma,” Haan said.