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Omaha Public Schools responds to concerns about ‘pathways’ program

Academies & Pathways program would put high schools on block scheduling
Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 1:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Ahead of its board meeting Tuesday night, Omaha Public Schools issued a statement on its proposed academies and pathways program in response to concerns voiced by parents in the district.

Starting in the fall, OPS plans to start rolling out its the College and Career Academies and Pathways program. Under the proposed plan, Freshman Academies would be created at each high school in the district, focusing on different fields like business, teaching, and engineering. OPS says every incoming student will choose an “academy” or “pathway” and explore careers and focus on skills in each one. Students would still take electives and core classes like math and science.

OPS defines Academies as “smaller learning communities with a career focus. Groups of students with a similar career interest take classes together. Career-focused classes proceed from one to the next in a series.”

Pathways are defined as “a series of four or more classes focused on a group of related careers, or cluster. Students in a pathway take classes with a wide range of other students across career interests.”

The change would also mean that all high schools would also transition to block scheduling.

Concerned parents say the district hasn’t been transparent enough with the planning and rollout of the program, and they don’t think students should be forced to choose a potential career at such a young age. As of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, an online petition on the matter had nearly 1,200 supporters.

The school says the program will benefit students and set them up for future success, and issued the following statement Tuesday morning.

“As we look ahead to what’s needed to prepare Omaha Public Schools students for their futures, we value the opportunity to continue our educational and outreach work regarding academies and pathways. We are committed to open communication and we look forward to future opportunities to engage families.”

Omaha Public Schools statement

The OPS school board meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the agenda, the board will take up the approval of the Freshman Academies Program, recommended by the administration. If approved, it would implement Freshman Academies at each of the district’s high schools starting this fall and would include the district’s two new high schools opening in the 2022-23 school year.

The agenda states: “The Administration will update the Board with its plan for continued staff and family engagement regarding the Academy and Pathway components on April 15, 2021. The family and staff engagement will occur throughout the remaining school year and summer with staff presenting the Board with the remaining components of the Academy and Pathway Programs for approval on September 9, 2021.”

Update:

After several hours of discussion and hearing from concerned parents Tuesday night, the OPS School Board voted in favor, 6-3, to move ahead with Freshman Academies this fall. This is the first step towards implementing the broader Academies and Pathways program, which would extend the program past freshmen year.

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