While MHS students and teachers were unwinding and recovering this summer from another hectic school year, Principal James Earle was busy overseeing and putting the final touches on some new improvements to the school for September. With the first day of school quickly approaching, I got a chance to talk to Mr. Earle about some of the changes students should expect to see.
One major change on the academic side beginning with the Class of 2015 is the launch of a brand new small learning community, BELA (Business and Entrepreneurship Learning Academy), which hopes to employ a non-traditional learning style and more hands-on experiences to engage students. We will also see the full implementation of STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), which was introduced last year. While STEM’s enrollment this year is expected to be 45-50 students, individual classes from both STEM and BELA will be available to all students, as these classes are now offered outside the other small learning community periods of 2, 3 and 4. Inter-disciplinary classes will create more interesting experiences and options as well as give juniors the opportunity to take STEM science classes that satisfy class requirements. Through these two new institutions, Mr. Earle hopes to extend “authentic opportunities” in learning outside of the Civics and Government Institute (CGI), and Center for Social Justice (CSJ).
MHS has already formed partnerships with the Rutgers School of Business and Montclair State University through which MHS students could take classes at a college level. Mr. Earle says that for BELA seniors who have a lighter course load, he plans to send them to local businesses to work as interns. But unlike the traditional college internship grunt work, BELA students will utilize their specialized education to help expand and improve Montclair businesses, whether it be through marketing, reorganizing, or public relations.
Class offerings aren’t the only area that has changed over the summer. The front lobby of the main building will feature a new 55” TV monitor over the front desk. MHS student achievements, announcements, and school news will be displayed and continuously updated.
The cafeteria will also have a new look this year. The walls got a fresh coat of beige paint and the purchase of new furniture has been approved. Mr. Earle plans to replace the long tables with more conversation-friendly round ones and update the hodge-podge of mismatched chairs with a more comfortable and uniform model. Later this year, he plans on replacing the ceiling tiles and installing new lighting. While these remodeling plans may sound routine, they are just the beginning of more exciting cafeteria changes planned for the future like the installation of booths along the windowed wall. Mr. Earle also mentioned the possibility of cafeteria workers coming to tables to take food orders and delivering food to students, or being able to pre-order food from a smart phone and picking it up when it’s freshly made. He has also suggested to Chartwells, the food-service provider, the idea of selling cafeteria food at kiosks outside the school in order to compete with the food trucks along Chestnut Street. While the future plans for the cafeteria are still a work in progress, students can rest assured that they aren’t the only ones longing for a better cafeteria experience.
Another bit of good news is that a modified version of the lunchtime program, “Got Tutoring?” will be reinstated in September. Last year the popular tutoring program was cancelled in the second semester due to conflicts with the teachers’ contracts. A more strategic use of teachers this year has allowed for the program to return. Tutoring with one or two teachers will be available for two or three days each week in the core subjects during periods 4, 5 and 6.
As the lazy days of summer quickly come to a close, we can now all be a little more excited about our return to MHS this week.