New high school to better prepare students for future
As construction workers raised the last steel beam to be installed in New Brunswick High School's new, monolithic facility, city officials looked on with pride at the portion of their project that had just been completed.
The beam –– which the mayor, city officials and construction workers signed –– signified for the administration the beginning of a new era for New Brunswick education.
"We think anytime you improve facilities, it helps the ability to provide quality education," Mayor Jim Cahill said.
Currently, New Brunswick High School houses more than 1,250 students in grades nine through 12. But with a new facility to be completed by fall 2010, the 400,000 square foot high school with 93 classrooms should house around 2,000 students, Cahill said.
Of its multiple unique design features, Cahill boasted small learning centers and flexible classrooms and learning spaces. The facility will also include a gymnasium, auditorium, media center, small practice theater, cafeteria and wellness center. The 26-acre property will also be home to four athletic fields: soccer, baseball, softball and physical education, respectively.
New Brunswick Public Schools Superintendent Richard Kaplan said both educational and auditorium areas will have separate access for the community during after-school hours.
He said a community help center, for example, should infuse the community, businesses and education together. Medical personnel, dentists and doctors would work in a suit in the wellness center that would be open until 11 p.m. to service the community.
He said programs like this are a good opportunity for students to learn more about their fields with hands-on experience.
"Everything we're doing will be related to careers and programs," Kaplan said. "The facilities match the programs and the needs of the kids so that it has the state of the art technology. It's just a wonderful opportunity to see learning take place for kids and open whole new careers to them."
Cahill said aside from the new facilities, he is excited the high school will institute six academies of learning: a School of Fine and Performing Arts; Law, Public Safety and Security; International Business and Finance; Math, Science and Engineering; Recreation, Hospitality and Consumer Services; and Health-related careers.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity for the kids," Kaplan said. "It's more than just a building of steel, and soon to be brick, but it's programs and all the services the kids are going to be exposed to with six different academies of learning."
During their first two years of high school, New Brunswick High School students focus their studies on core academics, said James DeWorken, special project coordinator. All students must select a themed school during their sophomore year, but they will have the opportunity to switch schools in their junior year if they desire.
Students who choose a Fine and Performing Arts academy, for example, would then take classes ranging from ceramics, performing arts, choral music, theater courses, acting, production, behind the scenes, costume design and scenery design, DeWorken said.
"So many kids go through high school, but nobody ever knows who they are," he said. "So by having the academies and the themed schools, it gives kids a chance to be in a small learning community, so that teachers get to know them, and they get to know each other."
During a students' senior year, they may also earn college credit from certain courses. The high school will also set up as many internships as possible for seniors for high school credit, he said.
"It's so that they get some real experience," DeWorken said. "The whole purpose is to get kids ready for college and to get them ready to get a job when they leave school."
He said the point of the academies is not to force students into a particular career. By the time many people finish 30 years or 40 years in the job market, they will have changed jobs at least four to five times and have changed careers around two to three times, he said.
"You're not telling students, ‘This is what you're doing for the rest of your life,'" DeWorken said. "You're not always going to stay in a career that you start at."
Cahill said the construction of a new high school is part of an overall redevelopment plan for the creation of new elementary schools. He said the population of New Brunswick schools has grown from the early 1990s –– when it was slightly more than 4,000 –– to now with well over 7,000 students in the school system.
The current high school building will be converted into a middle school to serve grades six through eight. The remaining elementary schools –– with an exception of two –– would be converted to grades one through five. On top of an already existing kindergarten center, there will be two more built. There will also be two elementary schools that will remain kindergarten through grade eight.