Community, Staff, and Students ask the district to explore programming and facility options.

The GFW School Board met on Tuesday, January 18 and heard public comment on the state of the district, its programming, and its facilities from a variety of speakers including students, staff members, and parents. Statements touched on a number of issues including programming wants, challenges for academic and athletic programming at district facilities, and other items that excited students and staff during the tours of other schools in December. 

GFW Athletics Director, Science Teacher, and district parent Rich Busse shared some of the challenges posed by current athletics facilities. 

“GFW used to be a hub for regional and sectional track meets, but we can’t hold those events because our track is simply beyond repair,” said Busse. “We have state-caliber track athletes that compete very well at the state level, but they don’t get to perform locally because of the condition of our track.”

Mr. Busse described other concerns including bleacher safety, an outdated lighting system of the football field, and other safety concerns. Middle and High School Principal Brittany Galetka shared statements from students and staff that touched on issues including expansion of the agriculture department, skilled trades education, and the need for student choice in programming.

“The common thread I saw at each of these schools was choice. Students had the opportunity to choose programs tailored to their interests which, not surprisingly, led to greater student interest, engagement and enthusiasm,” wrote Mark Leitheiser, a 34 year veteran staff member of GFW. “I’m certain a greater variety of class options in all academic areas would be a positive step forward for GFW students.”

Students who traveled to other school districts shared feedback that the programming that was offered in facilities that supported learning for today’s and tomorrow’s world got them excited about school. 

Superintendent Horton announced that initiatives to engage the community will continue with more opportunities to participate coming soon around potential facilities and programming options in the district.

 “We have listened to our community and responded by adding over 100 new opportunities for students; our community has been and continues to tell us that we need an answer to our facilities that will support 21st Century Learning, ” said Horton. “I will engage in a robust community engagement process to hear what our community wants and bring those opinions back to the board.”

The board approved a new course and registration guide for GFW Middle School and GFW High School. All grade levels will see expanded programming in a number of career clusters and pathways for students with expanded course options, additional support for students, and new technology initiatives. 

The district will be establishing what are called “Academies” that will be the overall umbrella for courses and programming focused on particular areas of interest and career options with several new opportunities for students. 

  • The BACE Academy (Business, Art, Communication and Entrepreneurship) provides additional business and entrepreneurship courses as well as work-based learning. Expanded arts programming including graphic design, web design, sculpture, and photography will also be offered. 
  • The AEM Academy (Agriculture, Engineering, Manufacturing) brings in a focus on agribusiness classes, auto mechanics, construction and metal fabrication courses, as well as more opportunities for work-based learning. Thunderbird Manufacturing will also combine a number of the fabrication skills with business courses that aim to train students to be able to produce products. 
  • The HSHS Academy (Health Sciences and Human Services) focuses on a number of areas including emergency medical careers, law enforcement, child growth and development, and additional science courses.  

The board also approved a resolution to move the fifth grade program to GFW Middle School starting in the 2022-23 school year. This move will improve staffing and curriculum planning and allow students to be able to participate in more options at an earlier age. Benefits for fifth graders will include early involvement with band and choir programs, more elective options and early trade experiences, and access to more after school programs. 

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