Due to the unfortunate demise of the Farragut Community School District (Nishnabotna), many high school students will be looking for a new high school to attend for the 2016-2017 school year. While the Iowa Department of Education will re-draw district boundaries prior to this next school year, many parents and students would prefer to consider their own options and make their own choices about where to go from here.
Farragut’s sharing partner, Hamburg Community School District will still be in operation, as a PreK-8th grade facility that will tuition out its high school students. As of their last meeting that school board intended to try to arrange things so that high school students could choose which of the local high schools they wanted to be tuitioned to from the Hamburg District, with Hamburg transporting them.
Wherever district boundary lines may end up, and even if the Hamburg School District is able to make tuition arrangements, though, it falls on the students and their parents to decide which high school is the right fit for them.
With that need in mind, the Hamburg Reporter will run a series of articles about each of the local high schools, providing basic information for students and parents to consider in addition to any site visits they may make to the local schools.
This week the Hamburg Reporter visited the Sidney High School, speaking to Superintendent Gregg Cruickshank and Principal Bill Huntington to get an idea of what life at the Sidney High School looks like.
Total current enrollment at Sidney CSD is 455, with 140 of those students being in grades 9-12. This consists of class sizes of 37 in the 9th, 28 in the 10th, 42 in the 11th, and 33 in the 12th grades.
Graduation requirements are similar to those of Nishnabotna, although the number of required credits is lower. Cruickshank said that the lower number of credits required was deliberate, as the district wanted to give students time as they neared graduation to take classes that might help them establish their future direction.
Sidney graduates are expected to fulfill:
8 Language Arts credits; 6 Math credits; 6 Science credits; 6 Social Studies credits; 2 Business/Computer Science credits; 6 PE and Health credits; 1 Technology credit; 2 Humanities credits, and 12 Elective credits, for a total of 49 credits. Nishnabotna requires 58 credits for graduation, and Cruickshank said that so far any transfers from Nishnabotna have gone smoothly, with no remedial credits needing to be obtained.
The district does not have any community service requirements, but will recognize at graduation any students who perform at least 40 hours of community services between May of their junior year and May of their senior year in school.
The district is proud of its technology offerings, from its Virtual Reality Education Program to its 1 to 1 laptop program. Sidney CSD provides MacBook Air laptop computers for every student’s use from third grade through 12th, and has done so for seven years now.
Cruickshank admits that MacBook Air laptops are more expensive than some of the other options, but he said the district is committed to technology and providing the students with the best.
In an effort to ensure that students are fully educated, though, students are also required to learn to use Microsoft Office programs, which might be used more in everyday work settings, while the MacBook has more creative/industrial applications.
The district is very invested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), and one of their teachers, Allison Gregg, was named Southwest Iowa STEM Teacher of the Year in 2014-15. Additionally, students are starting to learn the basics of robotics, programming and coding by middle school level.
Huntington said the district is in the process of trying to set up a welding career academy that could begin as early as next year. Students could learn blueprint reading, basics of acetylene welding, shielded metal arc welding, and fabrication.
All of this would help students get a head start in college or the workplace at a time when the skilled labor generation is aging out and retiring.
For students who might be struggling with school, there is a comprehensive Alternative School program for the high school, as well as a Life Skills Program for those on an individualized education plan (IEP), or needing special education.
Sports offered at Sidney CSD include:
cross country (shared with F-M);
wrestling (shared with F-M), and
golf (shared with F-M),
and Huntington and Cruickshank say participation in their sports offerings is high.
Extracurricular clubs and activities offered include:
Business Professionals of America;
Celebration (yearly talent show).
Cruickshank said the district remains determined to cooperate with the other area schools, and that all of them are dependent on each other for survival.
“Over the last 10 years 900 students in grades K-12 have been lost from the corner conference schools,” Cruickshank explained. “Times are changing, and they’re changing fast; we all have to do what we can to adjust. That’s why we all have multiple sharing agreements and try so hard to be good neighbors. Ultimately it’s about working together to provide a good education for the kids. They’re what matters.”
According to Cruickshank, at present the Sidney CSD is happy to schedule visits with individual families that want to see what the district has to offer. An open house of some kind may be planned later in the year if need be.
Watch next week for a story providing information about another of the local high schools. The Hamburg Reporter plans to have a side-by-side comparison of the school districts bordering the Farragut Community School District available by the time the Iowa Department of Education has a decision made regarding the new school district boundaries.