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Oswego School Board Considers Options For Big Picture School

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego Buccaneer Junior/Senior High School is exceeding expectations – and it’s not even a semester old yet.

On Tuesday, the board of education was updated on the progress of the Big Picture school and its potential expansion.

“We are very, very excited about this school and what we’ve already seen, experienced and heard stories of from the students that are going to that school,” Cathy Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the board.

Now, they are looking to the future, she added.

The plan was to add another grade level each year; so next year it would be 10th and so on, she noted.

“If we’re going to do that, then we need to make some decisions and we need to know from you as a board what your beliefs are. If we are to grow the school, we aren’t going to be able stay in the location that we are currently in,” she said.

The board can look for a new location, repurpose another district building or remain where they are and remain a grade 7-9 building.

“We started off the year with 40 children, grades 7, 8 and 9 and one 10th grader,” Deb Smith, the building principal, said. “Since that time, we have had a great, and I mean great, amount of requests for students to either come visit or parents coming in. That’s because we’ve been wildly successful beyond our dreams.”

They have room for 42 students total this year.

The Big Picture School consultant came to visit the school recently, Smith added.

“She was absolutely astonished at the progress that we’ve made. Usually when a Big Picture School opens, they don’t get people out (into community internships) until January and a second-year school gets them out in November. We have had our kids out doing public service, community service at five weeks!” she said.

As part of their internships, the students are “doing real, live authentic work in the real world,” at places like Bridie Manor, the Salvation Army and the Ladies Home, Smith said.

“It is amazing because these kids, when I had some of them last year in seventh grade, I could hardly get them to do a two-minute presentation about just ‘hello my name is…’ And the presentations we’ve seen now, the least amount of time they’ve spoken about what they’ve accomplished these 10 weeks has been 30 minutes.”

As an example, she pointed out one student who was failing last year and is now excelling in the new school program.

“If I had to put a grade on him, which I wouldn’t do, I would say he is an A-plus student. He’s taken leadership, it’s just marvelous to see this kind of growth,” she said.

They also now have a very active parents group, the principal added.

They have organized a harvest dinner to celebrate the students’ achievements thus far this academic year.

It will be held Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m., in the Oswego Middle School cafeteria.

“What we’d like to be able to do is over a five- or six-year period is meet our expectations in term of the square footage in the facility that we need to continue to enhance the program,” Superintendent Bill Crist said.

He plans to set up a small committee to explore the options and report back to the full board.

“We’d like to include at least one or two board members along with parents as well as students on that committee,” he said. Other members would include himself, Chamberlain and Smith, he added.

There are already a few sites targeted as a possible home for the school.

Some would need a little more work than others. The costs range from $2,335 per month to $6,250 per month up to $10,800 per month.