VISD prepares advanced learning center


June 19, 2010 at 1:19 a.m.

Starting this fall, the place once called the Memorial High School Senior Campus will bear a different name.

Preparations are being made to turn the campus into the Victoria Center for Advanced Learning, where about 300 students will come from the two new high schools to take courses.

"It's going to be very, very different," said Rachel Galvan, a Victoria West High School senior who will be taking AP European History and AP Calculus at the advanced center. "For all these years, we've had this school jam packed. Now, it's going to be totally different walking throughout those halls with barely anyone there."

The learning center will also house the Liberty Academy, which is the credit recovery campus formerly known as Profit Magnet High School.

A similar advanced learning center will be available for middle school students - called the Center for Middle Advanced Learning - which will be at the Stroman Middle School, formerly Stroman High School.

The Advanced Learning Center

The high school advanced learning center is an extension of Victoria East and Victoria West high schools, all of which are opening in August.

It will offer a combination of upper level courses, dual credit courses, core courses, and career and technology courses.

Those taking courses there will be bussed from their main campus to the advanced center, and will take two classes there before being transported back.

Most students pre-registered for these types of advanced courses, such as AP Biology II or AP Chemistry II, toward the end of last school year.

District officials are coming up with the master schedule to determine when these courses, as well as the regular courses at the two new high schools, will occur based on how many students were interested.

The high schools will be on an A/B block schedule, which means their daily schedule will consist of four 90-minute classes on "A" days and four different 90-minute courses on "B" days.

Classes will only be taken every other day.

The master schedule should be completed sometime in July, said Nancy McCord, assistant superintendent for secondary schools

McCord did confirm so far that band and freshmen athletics classes would be sometime in the morning, while varsity athletics, band and cheerleading will be sometime in the afternoon.

All high school athletics and fine arts programs will be at the main campuses.

Dual credit courses, which will be at the advanced center, will be sometime in the morning, McCord said.

Most of the upper level courses will be at both high schools, said Sherri Hathaway, who will be the center's principal.

However, there are some less popular courses that only a handful of students at the two high schools registered for.

Superintendent Bob Moore sad that in the past, some of these courses have been canceled because not enough students signed up for them.

Moore, who said students were in a similar situation while he was in the Amarillo school district, created an advanced learning center so students interested in less popular classes would still have the opportunity to take them, and will keep the classes from being canceled.

This is why the advanced learning centers work so well, Moore said.

"When I was superintendent in Amarillo back in the 1990s, we were looking at ways at providing more advanced learning opportunities for children that not a lot of kids may need, but that maybe three, four or five wanted," Moore said. "By bringing kids together in that program in one location and allowing students from multiple high schools to attend that program, all of a sudden you have it feasible to provide those programs."

Altogether, the advanced center will offer nearly 60 courses for students in different varieties.

"What a wonderful opportunity for students," Hathaway said, who was last principal at Profit. "These new courses are fantastic. These are courses any student is going to love to take. Whether college or trade school, there's something for everybody."

The Amarillo advanced learning center was rated exemplary in 2009, according to the Texas Education Agency.

The Victoria school district is also opening the center up to high school students from other school districts, private schools, and home schoolers to take courses, Moore said. In general, the school district will not charge an out-of-district fee.

VISD will receive state funding for students who are home schooled or come from a private school if they enroll for at least two hours a day in VISD, and will count as a half student, Moore said.

VISD will make a reimbursement agreement with another school district if a student from there would like to enroll, he said.

Moore did not know of any students of other school districts who have signed up for courses at the advanced center, but did confirm some home schoolers have.

Awareness of the advanced center is expected to grow over time throughout the area, he said.

"That aspect really grows over time once you start providing those advanced programs," he said. "It's typically in the second or third year that you have more participation from other students and parents."

McCord said the school district is projected to receive 400 additional students in the school district between grades sixth through 12th this next school year.

As student enrollment grows, more teachers will be hired as needed throughout the school district, Moore said.

It's also important for students to return to their main campus for the remainder of the day, Moore said.

This allows students to still be part of their extra-curricular activities, he said.

"Students need to be part of their comprehensive high school for student council, band, orchestra," Moore said. "It's such a valuable learning experience to be part of that."



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