New Staff, Science Sequence at Chatham High
Overflow parking will see some changes as the school year begins.
At the start of the 2011-12 school year, Chatham High School wore many of its changes on the outside of the building. A new parking lot wound its way to the south of the building, and part of the campus was closed off for the construction of new classrooms.
As the 2012-13 school year comes closer, changes at Chatham High are just as significant but not as easily seen.
"We have new staff coming in this year," Principal Darren Groh said. New staff members include a new assistant principal, Douglas Walker, who replaced George Alexis as of Aug. 16.
"Bill Lebrera, our new athletic director, has been here since July 1," Groh said, "and he's jumped in with both feet."
There is also a new Mandarin teacher, Yanfei Li, to replace Vicky Chu, and a third year added to the school's Mandarin program, and a new staff member position in the Physical Education department. According to Groh, this is the first addition to that department's numbers in six years.
The sequence of science classes will also change this year. All freshmen will take biology rather than choosing between earth science and biology. "We've also added an [Advanced Placement] Physics B, which is a new course, and that has, I believe, over 100 students in it," Groh said. The Advanced Placement class replaces Honors Physics, which is no longer offered.
The band and orchestra programs also went through a scheduling shift this year to try to accommodate the needs of both Chatham High and Lafayette Avenue School (LAS), which share the staff members and auditorium space. According to Groh, Chatham High locked their classes into the morning to allow the teachers to work with LAS students in the afternoon.
Facilities and Technology
"Internally we have the same summer things that typically go on with cleaning the building," Groh said. "Everything is almost hospital clean."
The auditorium has undergone several improvements to the overhead lighting, and new floor lighting was installed at the end of July thanks to an $18,950 donation from the Chatham Education Foundation. "Our kids are really going to benefit from those enhancements," Groh said.
Chatham High also purchased about 60 new netbooks with funds donated by the Parent Teacher Organization.
"We're going to netbooks versus laptops because we can get more of them," Groh said. "We're about 26 per cart, and we're looking to up to to 28 per cart because of class sizes."
Netbooks are stored in mobile carts, which can be transported to different classrooms to turn the room into a computer lab. "That's a benefit because we've had to dissolve computer rooms from previous years for the enrollment growth," Groh said.
By the time school starts, each department will have about two netbook carts at their disposal.
Give a Little, Get a Little
Enrollment at Chatham High ended below projection in June, providing the school with a brief reprieve from overcrowding.
According to Groh, the school was projected to have about 1,170 students for the 2011-12 school year. "Instead we started with 1,155, and we hovered in that 1,150-ish area for the entire year," he said.
As of Aug. 15, enrollment at Chatham High was still below 1,170. Groh said there are 298 freshmen registered, 291 sophomores, 289 juniors and 282 seniors, for a total enrollment of 1,160.
Enrollment may increase before school begins on Thursday, Sept. 6, but "I think we're in better shape than we originally projected," Groh said. "We're a year or two behind where we projected, which is a good thing."
The luck is not expected to hold. After the 2012-13 school year, Groh said he expects enrollment will increase rapidly rather than hold steady. "We're going to be where we believed we would be in the next couple of years," he said.
Classrooms are not the only place with crowding issues. The gravel lot at Colony Pool, which is traditionally used as an overflow parking lot for students without on-campus parking passes, will be unavailable to students beginning in September.
Students will be able to use three paved lots at Colony: one on the east side of School Street, above the club house; an inlet on the west side of School Street; and a lot off of Spring Street next to the tennis courts. "I'm thinking we can fit about 50 cars if we had to," Groh said, "if they park reasonably well."
The Board of Education and Chatham Township officials are still in negotiations with PSE&G to possibly open up part of the gravel lot. In the meantime, Groh said, "we'll have some time at the beginning of the year to see what's going on over there."
To control traffic speed in front of the high school, several new speed bumps and a handicap-accessible drive has been installed. Chatham Township Police and officials, in cooperation with Chatham High and LAS, also added a new crossing guard to help guide pedestrian traffic in front of the school.
Groh said students and parents adjusted well to changes to pedestrian and vehicular traffic from the 2011-12 school year, including a traffic monitor who guided incoming cars to the Chatham High lot, and the installation of a new walking path from Longwood and Dellwood avenues. "We're hoping the Longwood path is really utilized," Groh said.
Back to School
Teachers come in for inservice days on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and the first day of class is Thursday, Sept. 6.
"We have a one-through-eight period day Thursday, ... and then we start with a Day One schedule Friday," Groh said.
Back to School Night will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.