Opening a new high AA school: what a challenge, and yet, how gratifying. Our community has supported the Flathead High School District’s efforts to provide more curriculum opportunities for our students, and twice as many activity and athletic programs. However, as occurs with most opportunities, there are challenges.
One of the challenges of opening a new high school in our community is the real allegiance and bond that has been created by several generations of Flathead Braves and Bravettes. FHS has been a highly successful education and activity center for many years. In some cases, it is with a sense of significant loss that staff, students and programs have been divided into two high schools. Yes, there is a celebration of the “new” school and a sense of excitement and anticipation of what is to come, but it is tinged with regret that we are no longer a one high school district.
One of the significant issues that has arisen due to the creation of the second high school was noted in the “Gaming the System” article published in the June 20 edition of the Flathead Beacon. It is indeed a struggle for some families and students to leave a school that they have already attended or a school that has been a family tradition. It is even a tougher decision when the student may have already been part of a successful program. It is also equally difficult to deny a young person the chance to be part of the first group of students attending a new high school and creating the culture of that school.
In order to meet this challenge the Board of Trustees put into place a policy that defined the terms of when and how a student might transfer between schools. There are three criteria that may be used to request a transfer between schools:
Mental or physical problems
Academic program offerings
Behavioral issues (recommended by administration)
We had 42 student requests for transfer. All students that provided the required documentation and met one of the three listed criteria and were granted a transfer.
If indeed students “gamed the system” they did it by enrolling in classes that they might not have otherwise entertained. The qualifying academic program offerings are specialized and highly challenging classes. Students had to show documentation that they were continuously enrolled in classes not available at their zoned school or had to provide written documentation of extenuating circumstances. Students were not granted transfers based on activity or athletic requests. Students that stop attending the classes that made them eligible for transfer will return to their home schools and be ineligible for athletics and activities per MHSA guidelines.
If we have students who elected to enroll in the qualifying Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs and then chose to be participate in a particular activity, well good for them for stepping up and accepting the academic challenge.
Yes, in the high school world, there are both opportunities and challenges when one becomes two. However, we look forward with much anticipation and excitement to the in-district competitions and joint activities that will occur. Students at both sites can look forward to building new traditions of excellence in all areas of learning, performance and competition.
Darlene Schottle is the Superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools
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