Committee members planning for the future of Camas High School

When instruction drives construction

Traditionally, when a high school becomes too crowded, a new building or addition is constructed and the educational programs to fit in that space are determined.

A committee of teachers, administrators and community members are seeking to change that, by having the instructional models drive the future expansion of Camas High School.

“The CHS Futures Committee believes our new culture and programs should drive our future facility decisions,” said Nan Henriksen, former mayor of Camas and committee member. “We need to develop a CHS vision of our preferred future, complete with language, culture and instructional programs that support it.”

She and fellow committee member Ellen Burton presented its findings to the Camas School Board recently to seek input before going to the next level.

The committee was formed a year ago by Ron Wright, magnet program teacher at CHS, Principal Steve Marshall and others interested in non-traditional planning.

A survey of students and staff found that most would like to have one high school instead of two, with off site programs. Committee members compared it to Hayes Freedom High School, which runs on a block schedule and offers students more flexibility than a traditional learning environment.

The committee is proposing having several “satellite” locations within walking distance of the main campus, in order to keep schedules flexible.

“I tried to run a block schedule of three periods long during the regular CHS day,” Wright said. “The difficulty of logistics was so great I gave up after a year because it was so hard to make it work with the regular school schedule. If we had off-site classrooms, it wouldn’t interfere with the bell schedules and other programs.”

The committee is also focusing on an educational shift from traditional “industrial age” instruction to “idea age,” goals.

“The old Joe Papermaker is doing well at knowing and doing what they’ve been old is the right answer,” Henriksen said. “But we are looking at a new normal, and developing independent thinkers and learners for the future. However, the structure at the high school is still under the old system.”

Henriksen and other committee members say this is the time to try new ways of doing things on a smaller scale to see what works before a final decision must be made in seven or eight years about how to build a new high school. Currently, CHS is near capacity with 1,938 students, and expected to grow by at least 100 every year.

“The window is between now and 2020 to experiment with new processes and ways of doing things,” she said. “Try it out, see how excited students become, and make a final decision then.”

After hearing the presentation, School Board members were asked for their input.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Casey O’Dell said. “It will be nice to see it come together and how it will be more efficient.”

Added board member Doug Quinn, “I love the concept. You struck a nice balance. I’m struggling with how you get there. When you solve that, it will be a very exciting program. I think a ‘school within a school’ concept would work really well, similar to a college environment.”

For more information about the Futures Committee, contact Marshall at steven.marshall@camas.wednet.edu.