Ozark High School stressing more career-oriented education model starting next school year

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 5:34 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:14 PM CST
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OZARK, Mo. (KY3) - Ozark High School will be changing the way it educates students next fall with a new approach that’s designed to better prepare them for their job careers.

It’s known as the Academies program.

”I think this is a game-changer for our students in preparing them for the real world,” said Ozark High School Principal Jeremy Brownfield. “The Academies are not taking anything away from what OHS currently has to offer. We are organizing our existing programs and adding additional opportunities for our students.”

The new model features six overarching Academies for OHS students to choose from based on their interests, talents, and plans after high school.

  • Health Sciences
  • Industrial and Engineering Technology
  • Human Services
  • Natural Resources and Agriculture
  • Business and Computer Technology
  • Arts and Communication

Each of those categories includes many different job opportunities and in the 9th-grade students will take an Academy Exploration class to examine those opportunities and finalize their pathway selection in the spring.

Throughout the rest of their high school years, they’ll take courses related to their chosen field, connect with the community through partnerships and projects plus get internships and college credits.

“Commonly you would hear a counselor say, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate high school?’ Brownfield said. “But now this really allows us to ask them, ‘What are your interests now? What are your talents now? Let’s see if we can build on those strengths and talents and help you prepare and decide what you want to do in the future.’”

Kinley Scott, Delaney Cardin, and Avary Johnson are Ozark students who have already made their pathway choices. Scott, a sophomore, chose music. Cardin, a sophomore, plans on entering sports medicine while Johnson, a junior, is interested in agriculture and natural resources.

But they also know the academy design is just as much about finding out what you don’t like as much as what you do like.

“The cool thing about Academies is you can change them at any point,” Scott pointed out.

“They are really flexible and you’re not stuck with one thing for all four years of high school,” Johnson added.

“One thing that’s different and probably better is before this we had classes that I really didn’t know would help in which career,” Cardin said. “But now we have the different Academies that show us which way to go.”

“Hopefully the worst thing that happens to them is they decide, ‘That isn’t for me,’” Brownfield said. “So now they haven’t wasted time going through college and then changing their mind at that point.”

The new Academies program’s implementation coincides with the opening of a second campus known as the Ozark Innovation Center. The 168,000 square-foot facility is in the old Fasco industrial warehouse where the school administration is also located.

All six academy programs will have space at the innovation center and that’s good news for programs like the woodworking classes that operate under limited, cramped conditions at the high school. Students will be able to spread out and do more at the innovation center.

“You do have an opportunity to manufacture and construct the pieces that you’re working on and not sit right on top of each other,” said Curtis Chesick, the Ozark Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

Chesick also pointed to a large room that will be used as a science lab at the innovation center.

“The science labs at the high school are smaller with fixed furniture,” he said. “In this lab, the furniture is not fixed so if you’re doing a physics experiment you don’t have to move out into the hallway to do motion or force exercises. You can reconfigure this room to do all your teaching inside the classroom.”

Probably the best way to describe the difference in what will go on in the two buildings is that at the high school you’ll be learning the basics of your chosen pathway and you’ll graduate on to the innovation center for the more advanced instruction.

“The goal would be that every student spends some time here (at the innovation center),” Chesick explained. “When you get to your junior and senior year it almost becomes like a junior college kind of feel. This is the campus where I’m going to meet with the same students and teachers that have the same desire as me.”

“It’s a great opportunity to get an experience that a lot of people don’t have until college or the later years in their careers,” Scott said.

And while you may think it’s too much to expect high school students to be dealing with career choices at this stage of their lives?

“I don’t think it’s ever too early to start looking at what you want to do in your future and keeping as many doors open as you can,” Scott said.

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