OPS Presents New Portfolio of Academic Programs for Students

By JoAnna LeFlores-Ejike*

Benson High students work with robotics. Benson already offers career academies that earned national recognition. Photo: OPS.

Focused on engaging students, increasing graduation rates and connecting high school classes to life after graduation, Omaha Public Schools announced a new chapter of opportunities for students: The Omaha Public Schools College & Career Academies and Pathways.

Beginning in Fall 2021, the program is the result of detailed evaluations, planning for future career trends and feedback from students, staff, families and community partners. It aims to introduce students to real-world opportunities while maintaining a foundation of core classes like English, math, social studies and science. Access to advanced courses, fine arts and electives will continue throughout the district.

The Omaha Public Schools College & Career Academies and Pathways addresses essential skills that students will need beyond high school to be successful in college, career and life. This program was recently detailed and presented publicly to the Board of Education on January 21, 2021. “Every part of this is designed to grow student success, to engage and motivate students in high school and then connect the dots to a high skill, high wage and in-demand job after graduation,” said Chief Academic Officer Melissa Comine.

Each program begins with the Freshman Academy, to support a strong transition from middle to high school. It is during the freshman year that students will select either an academy or pathway at any of the district’s high schools. To better understand the program’s two track options, we have provided a definition below:

  • Academies are a small learning community 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 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.

Additionally, students will have the option to consider advanced academic opportunities and elective courses. Depending on the chosen high school, the advanced academic courses may include Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge, International Baccalaureate or Dual Enrollment. The elective courses will span performing and fine arts, world languages, JRTOC and other extra-curricular activities.

Academies and pathways will be phased in over the next four years, beginning with the Freshmen Academy for incoming 9th grade students this August. “Moving forward, we need to provide students with real world experiences so they can make a connection between high school and future endeavors,” Dr. Colette Nero, North High Principal said. “That’s what this does. It makes what they’re learning relevant, important and gets them ready for the next step.”

*Joanna LeFlores-Ejike wrote this article and she is contributing with El Perico.

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