10/21/18 Graham and Cummings: What’s the deal?

Todd Thorpe, Alamance-Burlington School System’s assistant superintendent for operations, answers questions at a school bond forum at Southern Alamance High School on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Jessica Williams/ Times-News

Todd Thorpe, Alamance-Burlington School System’s assistant superintendent for operations, answers questions at a school bond forum at Southern Alamance High School on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Graham and Cummings: What’s the deal?
ABSS addresses questions about sports, transportation and more
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 10/21/18     
Reprinted with permission.  
 
There ’s still some confusion about Graham and Cummings.

The Alamance-Burlington School System hosted two public forums the week of Oct. 15 to address any leftover questions about the $150 million bond on the Nov. 6 ballot. The two high schools were a frequent topic of discussion.

If passed, the bond is set to build a new $70 million high school and fund $80 million in renovations and additions to the district’s six high schools as well as two elementary schools — South Mebane and Pleasant Grove.

Within that, the district plans to turn Graham and Cummings into magnet schools open to students from across the county.

Graham will offer two new programs: the ABSS Career Academy — which will house firefighting, public safety and emergency medical services as well as skilled trades like HVAC, electrical, welding, masonry, plumbing and carpentry — and the ABSS Pre-Collegiate Academy, wherein students take college courses their junior and senior years.

One member of the community asked how the ABSS Career Academy would differ from the ABSS Career and Technical Education Center in Burlington.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations Todd Thorpe assured him that there won’t be duplicate programs. The idea is to increase opportunities, not offer more of the same.

For example, CTEC currently offers Culinary Arts and Health Sciences. Graham won’t offer those.

Cummings will become a school of the arts, open to grades six through 12, and support an International Baccalaureate program. Both of these programs will be implemented slowly over three to four years.

To allow sophomores, juniors and seniors to finish their high school years without having to be involved in either program, the plan is to begin the arts program at the middle school level, and the IB program at the ninth-grade level, adding a grade each year as students graduate.

But are there enough students in Alamance County with an interest in the arts to fill a magnet school like this?

Public Information Officer Jenny Faulkner said there is a waitlist of more than 1,000 students who want to attend Cummings once the arts program begins.

If these schools are open to students from all attendance zones, how are they going to get there? Will parents/ guardians have to drive them?

No. Transportation will be provided.

During the first few years, Thorpe said he anticipates students will ride the bus to their former high/middle schools and then be shuttled to Graham or Cummings. At the end of the day, they’ll be shuttled back to their former schools to ride the bus home. Eventually, both schools will have their own bus routes again.

But beyond transportation or curriculum issues, the community’s No. 1 concern is that Graham and Cummings are losing their identities, that they will no longer be the Red Devils and the Cavaliers.

One community member told Thorpe and Faulkner that both high schools are “concerned that they will no longer have a traditional high school setting for their communities, that they would be split amongst the new district,” adding that teachers are afraid they’ll be fired or forced to teach at another school if the bond passes and these transformations take place.

That’s not true.

Both high schools will continue offering athletics, band and choir. They will also continue teaching core subjects — math, science, social studies and English — so teachers will keep their jobs even if they aren’t qualified to teach dance or welding.

Faulkner assured the audience that, aside from new programming and accepting students from all attendance zones, not much will change at either school.

“This is more about the electives that would be offered,” she said.

There will be one last public forum on the bond, held Monday, Oct. 22, at 5 p.m. in the ABSS Central Office building, 1712 Vaughn Road, Burlington, for any last minute questions before the vote Tuesday, Nov. 6.