Johnstown Independent

Northridge students propose a few school improvements

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Seven Northridge High School juniors are taking proposals to the school board Monday, Dec. 16, in the hopes of making their school a better place.

Borrowing from Superintendent Dr. Chris Briggs' familiar "It's a great day to be a Viking" mantra, the recommendations began as a persuasive-writing project called "An Even Greater Day to be a Viking" in Kim Garee's English class.

"I told them to think about some manageable change they could research, propose and oversee," Garee said. "While some proved more manageable than others, all the students took something important away from the project."

Dressed formally, the students will present board members with written proposals and multimedia presentations that explore the recommendations they suggest.

Shanlee Lamp, Joy Goodman and Faith Miller will pitch an idea for a morning breakfast and coffee shop in the central hallway of the high school.

"We've wanted to open a coffee shop," Lamp said. "Others schools do it. We decided it would be cool to have a shop with frappes. Then Mrs. Garee came up with this project."

Lamp said the shop would use an existing concession stand in the lobby that's empty during the day.

"One of our students' moms is a staff member for lunch," Lamp said. "She said she would be glad to supervisor students who run it. We would use most of the money for our prom. The profit would go back to getting more coffee and food. It's mostly a fundraiser for our prom."

Macy Adams, Jared Smith and Nick Britton are outlining the details of a plan to open a school store to sell Vikings apparel and basic school supplies students might need in a pinch.

Ronni Fleshman and Mirandah Popp want a competition show choir, and Brad Wilson suggests replacing the existing scoreboard at the baseball field.

"Many of our fans complain because they can't see our scoreboard," Wilson said. "It's in a brushy area and overgrown. For the past couple years, teams and fans have wanted this. This was a great opportunity to seize it.

"It's to the point it would cost more to repair it than what it's worth," he said.

Wilson, who plays baseball, contacted a few companies about pricing and even has pledges for free installation.

"One of my main motivations is that it will make our school look better," he said.

Matthew Hebert will recommend an 8 a.m. start time for the high school/middle school campus, and Nathan Davis wants to explore the cost savings of a four-day school week with slightly longer classes Mondays-Thursdays.

Tate VanFossen wants to pay 50 cents for vending-machine snacks rather than the dollar students pay this year.

Garee said the idea for the writing project came from looking at the standards and what students should learn to do in the 11th grade: research, synthesize information, construct persuasive arguments, explore all sides of an issue, use technology to add to persuasiveness and verbally sell it.

"These are real-world skills -- skills you use in the workplace, in the business world," Garee said. "I told them to start with what I call 'scrappy research' and go from there, and they did."

Students had to establish the importance of the change and research all facets of bringing their proposals to fruition, Garee said.

Surveys of the student body went out for data collection. The students also interviewed businesses in the community, crunched numbers, measured ball fields and estimated profit margins.

Projects already approved or in the process of approval by the high school administration include a larger net for the new scoreboard in the gymnasium, a marketing/statistics course, a student-run history and debate club and feminine-product dispensers in the girls restroom.

"The quality of proposals and presentations I've seen come out of this shows me they work hard when they can see what they're headed for and when they feel like what they're doing actually matters," Garee said.

Students in each class voted for their favorite proposals following initial presentations, and those votes helped determine which projects would advance to the principal and/or school board.

High school principal Amy Anderson said the students have done a great job in identifying ways to make the school even better.

"It is so important that students realize that this is their school and that they can positively impact it in many ways," she said. "I have been both proud and impressed with the work they have done in Mrs. Garee's class. They can make a difference."

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