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Hampton High School up and running at full speed



By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

  It was the first day of school, but it could have been the hundredth day.

A ribbon cutting was held Monday at the new Hampton High School. The school is issuing each student a laptop so that all content can be accessed digitally.                      Special photo

  That was the observation of Todd Finn, principal of Hampton High School, who marveled at how smoothly things went Monday when students and educators gathered for the very first school day ever held on the new campus.

  “The school day began at 8:15, and by 8:35 every single student was in a classroom learning,” he said. “Our superintendent and associate superintendent came by, and the hallways were absolutely clear.”

  Traffic coming to and from the school on Hampton-Locust Grove Road, next door to Hampton Middle School, was not a problem at all, Finn said. He gave all the credit for that to the students’ moms and dads.

  “Our parents are very good when it comes to social media, and we keep in touch with them regularly via Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “We are able to give them messages over the course of the day [regarding drop-off and pick-up procedures], and they have been phenomenal. All of the buses were on time except one, and it broke down while transporting elementary kids.”

  The Henry County School System’s 51st school, Hampton is the first new high school to open since Locust Grove High was unveiled in 2009. It is Finn’s third posting as principal (the other two were in North Carolina) and the first school he has opened.

  The first day saw 817 students enrolled in grades 9-11. As is the custom with new high schools in Henry County, there is no senior class the first year.

  Aside from being the newest, Hampton High is unique among other county schools when it comes to technology, having undergone a complete digital conversion. Every student is being issued a Lenovo laptop that can also be used as a tablet, Finn said, and they will be able to take them home as well as using them at school.

  “Our content is all digital. Although we are teaching live, with real teachers and real classrooms, the need to have those heavy antiquated textbooks is now gone,” he said. “Our students can now access information instantly, and our teachers can be a lot more innovative in how they deliver the instruction and facilitate that instruction by using certain online platforms or allow for our students to do a lot more research in real time.

  “It really has moved things forward for us. Our kids now are being taught in their world, in the century that most of them were born in.”

  One hundred percent of the campus has wi-fi accessibility, according to Finn.

  “You can get it anywhere, anytime,” he said. “Our teachers are no longer confined to their classrooms. Now they can teach anywhere they feel like teaching.”

  The students’ extraordinary online access will also be seen in formative assessments, through which teachers can check progress frequently and get instant feedback.

  “We can find out immediately who can get ahead and who is struggling,” said Finn. “We don’t have to focus so much on grading; we can focus on teaching. Our students will be keeping digital portfolios, and everything they do will be saved in a cloud as evidence of the work they’ve done so they can see how they’ve improved.”

  It was the new personalized learning initiative that brought Finn to Henry County in the first place. He said the district has been considered “cutting edge” for some time, and he studied about it while in college in Boston.

  “When I saw that there was an opportunity to open a new school with this philosophy, I knew I would be remiss if I did not throw my hat into the ring,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”

  The innovative school has been able to recruit top educators who also buy into that philosophy, he added.

  “We were able to find folks we knew would be flexible, versatile and real game-changers,” Finn said after the final bell Monday. “We had the confidence going into today that they would do their jobs, would call an audible at the line of scrimmage if they needed to, and they weren’t going to get stuck.”

  Officials will continue to look for ways to improve, from getting students into their classes faster to shortening the cafeteria lines. But Finn reiterated his impressions of Monday’s results.

  “This would have been a good 100th day, let alone a first day.”



©Henry County Times, Inc.