Students and their families were able to tour the academies of Grand Island Senior High housed at the high school, Career Pathways Institute and the Wyandotte Learning Center — the former Starr Elementary — during an open house at all three locations Sunday afternoon.

GISH Executive Principal Jeff Gilbertson said with the updated buildings and the launch of the five upper academies with the first day of school for upperclassmen Friday, the school wanted to open its doors to showcase each academy, including the Academy of Freshman Exploration launched last year.

Gilbertson said students attending the open houses Sunday were able to walk through their respective academies and go through their schedules to see where their classes are. He added they were also able to meet their academy principals and teachers.

During the open house at GISH Sunday afternoon, teacher Chris Holton gave senior Rosemary Almanza and her mom, Rose Yat, a tour of the Academy of Business and Communication, showed them where Almanza’s classes are and gave them a rundown of what his graphic design course, which Almanza is enrolled in, will look like this school year.

Holton said students in the graphic design class will create business logos, edit video and do some photography.

Almanza said she enjoyed being able to see where all her classes are at and meet her teachers. She added it helps to relieve some of the stress associated with the first day of school.

Gilbertson said there are a number of changes to the GISH building as a result of the implementation of the five upper academies at the school. He said there is new signage indicating where each academy is located at the school. Each academy is also color-coded so students can identify it.

Almanza said some of the noticeable differences she sees at GISH this year are the signage and the close proximity of her classes.

One of the additions for the GISH academies is an ambulance simulator which will be used in the EMT class in the emergency medical pathway as part of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Scott Hirchert, who teaches the class, said the ambulance simulator runs on compressed air and that there is an air compressor that “feels like airbags” underneath it.

“There are four cameras inside so we can shut the doors and the kids are in there like they are EMTs,” Hirchert said. “We have some joysticks over here (at a computer workstation) and I can make that thing roll a little bit like they are traveling down the road.”

He added the ambulance simulator also houses a “fancy mannequin” where students can do defibrillations and/or address the signs of cardiac arrest.

Hirchert said the ambulance simulator is set up “just like a regular ambulance would be.” He said a maximum of three students will be in the simulator at one time. The other 15 to 20 students enrolled in the EMT class will watch what the group is doing inside the simulator on an overhead TV screen.

“We are going to put another 50-inch TV up on the wall,” he said. “That will be plugged into that (computer) monitor so kids can sit in their desks and watch what is going on in the ambulance, rather than being huddled around the computer screen.”

Career Pathways Institute

D.W. Holley, principal of the Academy of Technical Sciences, said the biggest highlight of CPI with the implementation of the five upper academies is that the location now houses two academies — the Academy of Technical Sciences and the Academy of Engineering and Technology — rather than just simply the CPI program like it has in the past.

“CPI is no longer the program and is now more of a location,” he said. “With the technical sciences (academy), we now have more of a definitive architecture and design pathway. The information and technology pathway, which was a part of CPI originally, now joins engineering and technology. We have five different pathways on the technical sciences, and engineering and technology sides.”

Holley said between the two academies, four core classes will be offered at CPI.

In the Academy of Engineering and Technology, an airplane simulator will be used in the aviation pathway. Daniel Fullerton, aviation pathway instructor, said the simulators are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and allow students to log flight hours needed to become a licensed pilot.

Fullerton said the aviation pathway houses smaller flight simulators that provide a limited view, as well as bigger simulators that are multi-screened and do everything the main flight simulator does. The former simulators are mainly computer work desks with flight controls. The main flight simulator allows students to experience actual movement inside it.

Fullerton can program the simulators for different airports, time of day, wind speed, turbulence and weather conditions.

“Freshmen and sophomores do a lot of fundamentals of aviation — why do things do what they do in the air? — like roll, pitch and yaw,” he said. “Then, when they get into their junior and senior year, they get more into flights.”

As part of the aviation pathway, Fullerton said students will also build a Vans RV-12 model plane.

“Students will start it as a junior and we will do it as a two-year build,” he said. “Every junior class will build it and when they are a senior, they will finish it up.”

Wyandotte Learning Center

The Wyandotte Learning Center — the site of the former Starr Elementary — will house the Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety. Academy Principal Ron Hester said between 100 and 130 students are taking classes at the location, which has six classrooms. English, math and government core classes will be housed at the center.

“It is that opportunity for a smaller school environment here,” he said. “We do not have the hustle and bustle at the high school with this academy. The students that are here do not have a long walk either. It is short walk from English to counseling and mental health. It will be sufficient for the students that are here.”

At the academy location, the area that was a library at the former Starr Elementary has been remodeled into a commons area with flex seating and tables. Students can use this area as a place to study before and after school or between classes.

“When you walk around the halls of the high school, there are study areas that kids use and they use that study time,” said Cathy Davis, counselor for the Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety. “I anticipate that this area will be respected and used.”

Senior Emmahlae Fairbanks, who is enrolled in the Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety, toured the Wyandotte Learning Center with her mom, Leah, Sunday afternoon. She said she likes the commons area and will likely end up spending time studying for her classes there.

With the five upper academies being launched Friday, Holley said they are “revolutionary” and will be “outstanding” not only for the city of Grand Island, but also the state of Nebraska and the Midwest.

“We are in new territory here that is just outstanding,” he said. “There are new opportunities for kids and it is going to provide different pathways to make them college and career ready. We are giving kids this hope to go to college and this belief that they are in the workforce and can be put on a path to success.”

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