MUSKOGEE, Okla. — The Muskogee Public School District is gearing up for the new school year. Students will head back to the classroom on Aug. 17.
This summer, 41 students spent time bonding, team building and getting ready for the Early College High School program. It’s a brand-new program at Muskogee Public Schools for the 2022-23 school year.
“I really wanted to be inside this program, just because I knew that I could do it,” said student Addison Plunkett.
Plunkett is just one of the students who will work to get their high school diploma and associate's degree at the same time.
“This is going to be a diamond on my resume,” said student Vicktor Lengerich.
The students will move together as a cohort and take AP-level high school courses starting freshman year. They’ll take college classes at Connors State College starting sophomore year.
Jennifer Kiser is the principal of Roughers Innovation Academy which houses Early College High School. Kiser says the program will benefit students in a lot of ways, especially financially.
“They will owe absolutely nothing when this is finished so that’s a huge benefit to them and their parents,” Kiser said.
Along with Early College High School, Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall says the district has a lot going on this year.
A $110 million bond issue in 2019 helped pay for Rougher Village — a brand-new basketball arena and football field at the high school. It’s not just the sports facilities that got an upgrade, the district has improved many of its buildings as well.
The district did a ground-up rebuild of the junior high, Alice Robertson.
“Every single building got something,” Mendenhall said.
As students head back into the school buildings, Mendenhall says safety is top of mind.
“It’s my biggest worry and fear about the safety of our kids,” he said.
They have a seven-person school police force, and the district does five different safety drills every year. They’ll also implement the Rave Panic Button app come September per Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order made in the fallout from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“I also know it’s all our responsibility to be vigilant and if you see something, say something,” Mendenhall said.
The district has had a challenge in finding teachers and support staff, like many other districts across Green Country. Mendenhall says they’ve had to rely on emergency certified teachers to fill in the gap. They have about 38 emergency certifications this school year. Mendenhall says that can present challenges.
“That’s what we’re seeing with these emergency certifications, people are struggling,” he said. “They struggle with the classroom management. They struggle with all of the work they have to do besides just teaching the subject and the content.”
They’re hoping their new high school Teacher Cadet Program, launching this year, will eventually help fill in the gaps.
“We have really tried to develop a program where we’re introducing the profession to those students,” Mendenhall said.
New for the 2022-23 school year, Muskogee Public Schools has a district-wide dress code. The district says the dress code standardizes clothing and appearance expectations across all school sites.
Meet the Teacher will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 16 from 4 to 6 p.m.
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