The progress of the split-session schedule and new classes, clubs and programs which debuted this year at Manchester Township High School were discussed during a recent parent advisory committee.
“Split sessions are going well, we’re doing everything we normally do,” said Principal Alexander George during the lightly-attended meeting at the school this week. “The plan for students to return to the middle school is currently proceeding, and we’ll probably return to our regular schedule in November.”
George said that the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and PSAT (Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test) will be issued to juniors, while sophomore students can opt for the PSAT later this year, likely after the split session schedule arrangement ends.
MTHS also has a new curriculum selection this year in its Social Studies department.
“This year is our first year offering an AP course in European history, which has two sections,” George said.
Advanced Placement courses are offered to junior and senior students, according to the principal — and if students score highly on the Advanced Placement test given at the end of the school year, they can use that course for class credit wherever they choose to attend college. According to George, the new course in European History supplements other Advanced Placement history courses that have previously been offered at the school, including one in United States history.
“We’ve also offered more semester electives to help students meet their Fine/Performing Arts graduation requirements, such as TV/Video Production, Art, Music, etc. We’re off to a good start there,” George said.
George also touted an experimental pilot program being used in the junior English classes instructed by faculty member Jennifer Ansbach, involving the use of iPads equipped with educational applications.
“We’ll see how the kids react to it and let it play out. [Ansbach] is a technology guru who speaks at tech conventions, and authored a column recently picked up by the New York Times,” said George.
The principal also talked about some new programs coming to MTHS which will promote education and healthy living choices to students in all high school grades.
“Heroes and Cool Kids will involve sophomores, juniors and seniors delivering lectures and lessons to sixth graders in the middle school,” George said. “It was a program started by former New York Jet Bruce Harper.”
The group of high schoolers will attend workshops in Holmdel and then deliver three lectures to their younger counterparts, on such subjects as peer pressure, substance abuse and a culture of mutual respect, according to the principal.
“At the meeting we held, there were over 100 kids interested in participating,” George said. “The kids involved take a pledge to remain drug and alcohol-free. Sometimes, the message has more effect when it comes from someone in their peer group. It’s a very powerful program.”
George explained that the club is being funded through a grant from the Manchester Township Municipal Alliance — which is also supporting the second annual iteration of Challenge Day for this school year.
Challenge Day involves a single day lock-in of students and facilitators, who open up about their familiarity with bullying, harassment and intimidation, in order to show a commonality of experience and seek to establish a culture of mutual respect and acceptance in the school environment.
“It worked very well last January, and we’re looking forward to doing it again,” George said.
Manchester resident and high school parent Christy Piaantino said that she likes when students mentor other students.
“Sometimes, it takes other students, their peers, to talk about these things. It’s great to see them do that,” she said.
The principal also mentioned an additional component to the freshmen health curriculum being handled by MTHS’s Resource Officer in the Manchester Township Police Department, Patrolman Shawn Cavalcante, titled “Too Good for Drugs and Alcohol”.
“We now have D.A.R.E. in place, and continue to work actively with Officer Cavalcante and Police Chief Brian Klimakowski,” George said.