Fort Mill Times

Q&A with Oakridge Middle School's incoming principal

LAKE WYLIE -- Crowders Creek Middle School Principal Will Largen, who is the incoming principal at Oakridge Middle School when it opens in August, last week met with about 80 future Golden Eagle students and parents to lay out plans for the new school. The following is a roundup of some of the questions answered by Largen at the May 27 meeting.

Is the school on track for its first day of classes Aug. 19?

"The final walk through as far as a punch list is June 26, and we hope to be moving in the second week of July," Largen said.

What programs will be offered?

All current Clover Junior High School programs, including all 18 of its competition teams, will carry over to Oakridge, Largen said. Because of cutbacks, he said, there will be no French and one fewer technology class, but activity periods will include offerings like art, physical education, health, keyboarding and dance. Seventh and eighth graders can compete in sports, though state rules do not allow sixth graders to participate.

"I do want to start off a sixth grade intramural program," Largen said.

What will the school day look like?

Largen would like to see a bell schedule running 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but the current board recommendation is 8:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. to better accommodate bus schedules, he said. Students will have five class periods, with each student engaging in two activity periods.

What about class size?

Oakridge expects to begin with 810 students combined in grades 6-8. Based on the teachers in place, class size should be close to 22 students, with advanced classes venturing as high as 28. Both figures are lower than the current Crowders Creek average, closer to 30.

Where will the students be?

"It is three schools in one," Largen said.

Looking at the school from Oakridge Road, sixth graders would be located in the middle of three self-sustaining wings, with eighth graders on the right and seventh graders on the left. Common areas like the gymnasium and cafeteria/auditorium will be used by each grade, but otherwise students will be kept separate. Each wing includes 12 classrooms, labs, lockers, conference rooms, an assistant principal office and other spaces.

"Sixth graders will never see eighth graders, except maybe when one's going to lunch and the other is changing classes," Largen said. "It's designed that way."

I heard something about uniforms. Is the new school going to uniforms?

"Any district that's ever gone to uniforms, it's been the parents coming to the district," Largen said. "We are not going to uniforms. That came up because of our parent survey, and that's probably why you heard something about it. On the survey it was about 50-50, and I'm not going to make half the parents mad about something if I don't have to."

How close is the school to being ready?

All staff positions except for cafeteria and custodial staff are in place currently, Largen said. The only problem could be a delay in the move-in date, with some activities like football practice beginning before the first day of school. Largen does not have a backup plan for locker room space if that happens.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," he said. "If we don't get in until the first day of school, I don't know what we'll do."

Without unexpected delays, though, Largen believes the school is as ready as it can be. Along with teaching staff, a nine-member executive board for the Oakridge Middle School Parent Teacher Student Organization is in place.

"Everything is ready to go," Largen said. "We're just waiting to get into the building."

A note from Oakridge PTSO President Sherri Ciurlik:

"We desperately need parents to sign up to be involved," said the mother of an Oakridge sixth, seventh and eighth grader next year. "The goal is to get as many parents involved in that building as possible."

In the fall, the PTSO will hold a catalog sale fundraiser. Griggs Road is the only school feeding into Oakridge that also plans a catalog sale in the fall, Ciurlik said. Currently the group has a budget of $11,000.

"I know that sounds like a lot, but it's really not," Ciurlik said. "We're going to a school that has nothing as far as the extra things. We don't have a popcorn machine. We don't have a snow cone machine. We don't have laminators."

Judging by the turnout at the Crowders Creek spring carnival, which drew almost the entire incoming Oakridge staff, and donations from other groups Ciurlik is optimistic that teachers and parents at the new school will blend together well.

"A lot of us don't know any of the teachers beyond the sixth grade ones, and some of us don't know the sixth grade ones," Ciurlik said. "They're invested in this."

More notes about the new school:

• Summer registration is tentatively scheduled for July 26-28

• The school Web site is not up yet, but will replace the current Crowders Creek Middle School site

• Sixth and seventh grade students will take all available activity classes, while eighth graders will be able to choose

• Every year, incoming Oakridge students will be given one book as required summer reading

• Each student will receive an Oakridge t-shirt for its first year

• The first extracurricular groups already are underway, with eight grade cheerleading hosting tryouts now

• The Oakridge PTSO is an official nonprofit, online at oakridgeptso.org

• Results from the recent parent survey will soon be online at the PTSO site

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