Choices within LPS leads to focus on students

School choice within Lincoln is strong and growing. Lincoln Public Schools showcased the various choices at an LPS Learning Lunch.

“One key to making school choice work is to be flexible with students and put the focus on the students,” said Pat Hunter-Pirtle, director of Secondary Education.

LPS offers open enrollment throughout its six high schools, and the Lincoln community also has various parochial schools and homeschool options for others.

Hunter-Pirtle and other staff members provided an overview of the many choices available in LPS.

Bus transportation is provided from the students’ home high schools to the Science Focus Program, Arts & Humanities Focus Program, and The Career Academy. The International Baccalaureate program is at Lincoln High School and the Air Force Junior ROTC has a program at Lincoln Northeast High School.

Hunter-Pirtle said the only two things LPS asks is that they attend - “and that‘s important” - and they are a part of the community, do the homework, participate in discussions. The programs are generally open to all students, unless a student needs additional support that can’t be met at a certain program.

Parents with any questions should contact the school directly. Here’s a preview of the various school choices in LPS.

The Career Academy (on the Southeast Community College campus at 88th and O streets)

Dan Hohensee

Nearly 20 pathways are offered for students who want to emphasize their studies in a specific career or industry.

Students can earn 15 credits per semester at TCA - now in its second year - as juniors and seniors, and can earn 5-10 college credits from Southeast Community College. Some students receive discounted tuition for those college credits, and can earn certifications or have a head start on certification requirements.

TCA staff also help students meet professionals in their chosen field so they are ready for real-world work. Students hear from guest speakers, can obtain internships, and take field trips to area businesses. This fits in with the Diploma+ approach, where students make a choice to pursue a specific career pathway while in high school, and graduate with extra experiences and opportunities.

Hohensee said the staff really focuses on developing lifelong learners, and students learn that in order to make a difference they have to do something different.

International Baccalaureate (at Lincoln High School)

JP Caruso (122 9th grades, 84 sophomores, 63 juniors and 42 seniors)

The International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln High School offers an advanced level of curriculum for students interested in this choice. Students earn an LPS diploma and an IB diploma based on successfully completing a final exam.

The program has a set of ideals they carry through every course, including inquirers, reflective, principled and more, said JP Caruso, director of IB.

In 9th grade, all honor students are included in pre-IB curriculum. In tenth grade, students can continue in the pre-IB program, or pursue other studies at the high school level.

As a contrast, AP (advanced placement) courses are open as individual courses that students can select, whereas IB is a core set of curriculum that students enroll for in their entirety.

Unique curriculum in IB includes a Theory of Knowledge class, service learning and an extended essay, similar to a student thesis.

Caruso cautions against using IB has a way to earn college credits while in high school. Instead, he said, focus on the educational opportunities a student can have while in the IB program.

AFJROTC (at Lincoln Northeast High School)

Lt Col (Ret.) Terence Plumb and MSgt (Ret.) Trent Woodruff

Students learn about life skills through military aspects, including uniform wear and marching. However, there is no military requirement or recruitment.

The AFJROTC is housed at Lincoln Northeast High School but is open to all public and private school students. Students must complete at least 15 hours of community service, and these have included firework stands, mud run, bike trail clean up, or helping with the Lincoln Marathon.

These efforts teach students one of their core value: service before self.

Curriculum - which is covered in three-year rotations - includes special topics such as aviation history, survival skills, exploration of space, Science of flight, and principles of management.

Cadets can also qualify for field trips to Offutt Air Force Base, or KC-135 refueling trip, Black Hawk helicopter rides, and visit the Air & Space Museum.

AFJROTC also has extra-curricular activities, including model rocketry, color guards and drill teams. Cadets present the colors at Veterans Day events and the College World Series in Omaha.

Science Focus Program (at Lincoln Children’s Zoo)

Pat Hunter-Pirtle

The Zoo School - officially the Science Focus Program - has five teachers, (two in science, and one in math, English and social studies) and 100 students. Classes are held about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with students completing some graduation requirements at their home high school before 10 a.m.

Research is a common theme at the Zoo School, now in its 19th year. Teachers instruct, then follow through with the students, and by the time the student is a senior, the expectations is an extensive, thorough research project.

Students also have possibilities to work at the zoo when not in class.

Arts & Humanities Focus Program (at 643 S. 25th St.)  

Pat Hunter-Pirtle

A&H has four teachers (English, social studies, math and art) and about 70 students attending daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Students have studio time as part of a focus of developing their craft in a project, whether it’s a story they are writing, music they are practicing, or art they are creating.

Students can attend various films at Ross Theater, and speak with a writer or director of that film. Students follow up with a reflective writing exercise.

The overall theme of A&H is to get kids to put those things together and find commonalities.

Bryan Alternative Focus Program (at 300 S. 48th St.)

Tanner Penrod

Attending Bryan is a personal choice, but students must be referred, participate in an interview to determine if the program is a good match. It resembles a ‘traditional’ high school but is smaller in size.

The focus is on student strengths, assets and developing positive relationships with a plan for career or educational plan after graduation. Hunter-Pirtle said they are seeing students who start at Bryan earlier in their high school career are graduating on time. In the past, those students were more likely to dropout, he said.

Published: December 2, 2016, Updated: December 2, 2016