WASD continues to offer more to students

As the face of education and the job market changes, today’s students face some overwhelming challenges.

But some districts are ahead of the trend when it comes to giving students the experience to make them ready to take those challenges head-on.

The 780 employees that make up the Williamsport Area School District has been one of those districts.

The first school in Williamsport popped up in 1802 only six years after the city was founded.

But it wasn’t until 1869 that an official high school of one small room on West Fourth Street between Hepburn and Elmira streets was founded.

After almost a century and a half of relocation and building changes, a district wide reconstruction of the grades in 2013 and building construction and renovation changes completed in the Spring of 2015, the district is ready to continue preparing their 5,042 students for the ‘real world’.

The process of preparing students starts early with a school wide positive behavior program, said Greg L. Hayes, executive director of the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation and Public Relations.

“The program rewards students’ good behavior and that’s important especially at the elementary level,” he said.

Like many districts around the county, Williamsport has worked hard to evolve their classrooms to meet the demands placed on students once they leave.

The district has iPads that are available to students all to increase students’ literacy in different cutting edge programs and smart boards in classrooms, Hayes said.

But what’s the use of cutting edge technology in classrooms without the curriculum to match?

Williamsport Area Middle School introduced a new STEM program last spring that shifted its science curriculum.

Using a grant funded by the state, the district purchased programs in Design and Modeling for seventh-grade and Automation and Robotics for eighth-grade students.

“We also have more than 14 Career and Technology Education programs that students can take,” Hayes said. “They can be certified in the industry by the time they exit the class.”

87 percent of the students taking those programs passed the national industry exams 68 of them earning advanced status.

The district also offers 18 advanced placement classes including music theory and different topics in art, Hayes said.

Based on those advanced placement opportunities, the district was named a bronze medal school by the U.S. News and World Report.

In 2016 alone, the Williamsport Area High School went from 79 total advanced placement tests taken to 155.

One of the unique opportunities for students of Williamsport are the 21 college courses available through the dual enrollment program with Pennsylvania College of Technology, Hayes said.

The dual enrollment program allows students to earn college credit in a variety of subjects from English to accounting while still in high school, giving them a significant head start by the time they graduate.

Those academic opportunities paired with the clubs and extracurriculars all contribute to creating the well-rounded students that Williamsport strives to create, Hayes said.

“There are over 50 clubs available at the high school, 55 sporting opportunities and 70 musical ensembles including orchestra, band and chorus programs participating in over 190 performances.

“Some of the music groups perform nationally,” Hayes said. “Some performed in Washington D.C. and are asked to perform locally throughout the year.”

Students at Williamsport Area High School are offered opportunities few schools of any size, anywhere, can match.