Navigating a New Path

For students of the closed Pathways Charter School, the transition to WBHS has been an adjustment

By Megan Landvatter, Current Staff

In Jack Elliot’s first week transitioning to West Bend East High School, he had to drop two classes—his first time ever doing so.

Elliot is one of approximately 50 students to have joined the West Bend High Schools for the 2019-20 school year after the closing of Pathways Charter School in July. However, there have been many difficulties for Elliot and other former Pathways students as they transition to the new environment. WBHS administration has been addressing these concerns as students adjust to new learning styles and the lack of technology.

The switch to the high schools has caused some former Pathways students to drop classes, including Elliott, an East junior. West sophomore Stephanie Snyder also found this to be a main issue for her.

“I dropped personal finance because I didn’t think I could take it,” Snyder said. “I dropped personal finance for a study hall so I could work or focus more or at least get an emotional break.”

Pathways was a project-based learning school run on a grant in order to provide a separate learning environment for students. Instead of doing day-to-day work typical of an average school, students had semester-long projects based on their interests that combined multiple subjects into one.

“Pathways gave me the advantage to learn in a different way,” Elliott said.

Along with the projects, students had access to technology at all times. Since much of the work was done online, Pathways provided Chromebooks during the middle school years that were traded in for laptops at the high school level. With the switch away from project-based learning, Pathways students have had to adjust to doing most of their work on paper. They receive more homework and assignments that are strictly on paper than they did at Pathways.

“I don’t think we can function without technology because we’re pretty used to it,” Elliott said.

Even though they have the technology available to them, students have to check out a Chromebook from the library instead of having it readily available whenever they need it.

“Pathways gave me the advantage to learn in a different way.”
– Jack Elliott, West junior

The WBHS administration has taken a few steps to ease the transition. Last spring, West principal Ralph Schlass met with the parents of the Pathways students to discuss class schedules to make sure students will be able to graduate. Credits do not seem to be an issue, as Pathways required 24 credits and WBHS requires only 22.5 credits. An additional meeting was held during resource time for the Pathways students in September, with plans for meetings about once a month.

“Now we’re in it, I don’t feel like we need to check up on anything,” Elliott said.

Students had only taken core classes at Pathways and then taken any extracurriculars at WBHS, allowing them to also take part in after-school activities and sports. Now, they are also able to take part in clubs that meet during resource time, giving them more opportunities to join new clubs that only meet during that period.

The former Pathways students also had the option to be in a homeroom with their counselor, Rachel Beranek, in order to allow the students to stay with a group of people that they are comfortable with. Most of the former Pathways students have opted for this.

“It’s an adjustment,” Beranek said. “Just like any new environment, you kind of have to navigate the waters a little bit.”

She plans to check in with the students to help them as the school year progresses.

“Maybe they need something different in the future,” she said.

(Top image: The Pathways students of 2018-2019 on May 28, 2019, at Badger Sports Park. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Snyder.)

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