Beginning August, 2014, 9th grade students in Kearns who have always attended their local junior high schools will now be attending Kearns High Community School. This represents a significant change for not only students and their families, but also for the junior and senior high schools. Both Jefferson Jr. and Kearns Jr. will lose a third of its student body as well as dozens of teachers and other support staff. At the same time, Kearns High will add almost 800 new students, bringing the total student population to nearly 2,400 students. They will be adding over 25 new teachers, plus additional administrators, counselors, and other support staff. The change will require extremely creative use of facilities and resources, including rearranging several teachers’ classrooms and building multiple new portable classrooms.
So why go through all of this hassle to change something that has been functioning for decades? What could possibly prompt all of this disruption? Simply put, students must come first. Specifically, student graduation. With only an average of less than 67% of students receiving their high school diplomas over the past five years, hundreds of students each year are falling through the cracks. For most of these students, the slide begins during their ninth grade year. Course grades count towards high school graduation in ninth grade, even though they are taken at the junior high school. Unfortunately, many students begin digging a hole for themselves by failing multiple classes during freshman year. For some who fail as many as 10-20 quarter credit classes, that hole can get very deep before even setting foot in high school. This year, over two-thirds of incoming sophomores will have at least one F in a core subject; that puts them off-track for graduation and at-risk for dropping out.
The goal in having ninth grade students attend high school is to not only significantly reduce the number of students who fail classes, but also to constantly reinforce the message that all students can succeed and graduate high school being college and career ready. The atmosphere at Kearns High is very welcoming. It also actively promotes high expectations for student achievement. It offers multiple opportunities to connect to the school via athletics, the performing arts, school organizations, and clubs. Students will be served by the same school counselor for four years. The counselor, along with other mentors and school support staff will be able to constantly guide, motivate, and direct students to what they need to be successful, graduate, and prepare for life after college. Most students have chosen to enroll in the Frehsman Academy, a semester class designed to support students’ study skills and help them focus on how to effectively direct their high school education towards college and career readiness. If they meet their goal, more and more ninth grade students will not only survive, but they will really thrive at Kearns High School!