Taking A Leap

JPS Helps Students Prepare For High School

Jamestown Public Schools middle school students toured Jamestown High School in an effort to prepare for their step into their next educational environment. Submitted photo

Many seniors will graduate soon, but four years ago they took a leap from middle school to high school. At Jamestown High School, that transition is treated with care.

Students from Persell, Washington and Jefferson middle schools have all been touring the high school to help make the beginning of next school year much smoother. The tours were brought back after an estimated 10-year hiatus. Students meet with honor society students and visit key locations within JHS.

On top of the visits, JHS counselors are also visiting the middle school students at their own school to begin their four-year relationship. Often, current high school students will visit with the middle school students as well to give them context.

“As long as I can recall, that’s been part of the transition,” said Dr. Mike McElrath, JHS principal. “It helps the students meet the counselors and talk through a few things and have a little bit of an understanding.”

Ashley Noon, JHS counselor, was visiting with Persell students Thursday talking them through the initial high school experience. Noon, and the other four counselors, will assist the students as they progress through secondary school. For McElrath and Noon, it’s important for the students to meet their counselor ahead of officially entering high school.

Jamestown Public Schools middle school students are currently meeting with guidance counselors to prepare for their jump to high school next year. Students are given four opportunities to acclimate to the high school environment ahead of their progression. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

“They get to put a face with the name and I get to see them,” Noon said. “We really want to decrease their anxiety. They have a lot of fears about coming to a new building with new teachers. We want to answer all the questions that they have and just give them information so it’s a less scary experience in the fall.”

As of now, there are 307 students preparing to enter high school next year, a smaller class size according to McElrath. While the experience will see them act more independently, McElrath emphasized the students shouldn’t feel alone.

In addition to the tours and counselor meetings, incoming students are also able to attend a student and parent night over the summer as well as a freshmen orientation before school begins.

“The No. 1 concern of incoming 8th graders is, ‘am I going to get lost in this big place?'” McElrath said. “So, they get their schedules and get to practice it many, many times and be familiar so when they hit that first day of school it’s not as much of a panic.”

Students are also assigned to small homerooms to give additional support. McElrath said the homerooms never exceed 12 students. A big concern is the shift to a credit requirement per year in order to pass a grade. With a smaller homeroom, those student can receive extra guidance on maintaining their course load.

“That’s purposeful so that the teachers can get to know the students a little bit and have a little better environment to keep the kids on track,” McElrath said.

Throughout the year, during Academy Days, tailored for 10th, 11th and 12th graders, the freshmen class participate in transition days that further help the new students adjust. Additionally, the students are also given guidance on academy pathways they can pursue.

After ninth grade at Jamestown, students are required to select an academy. At the end of their first year, students can choose from academies of business, management, marketing and technology; natural sciences and resources; pre-law and human service; communications, performing and visual arts; pre-engineering, manufacturing and industrial technology; and pre-medicine and health science.

With graduation nearing, McElrath reflected on having the opportunity to watch incoming students who are fearful of the high school eventually successfully graduate four years later.

“To see how far some of these kids have come … it’s nice to see that growth over that time,” he said.