By Cheryl Conway
The new school year is underway for Mt. Olive schools and with that brings some new exciting changes.
From programs to facilities, to name a few, students will get to utilize a new engineering lab, rock-n-roll class, recording studio, a new turf field, some new windows and spirit signs at the high school; resurfaced tennis courts and a fifth court at the middle school; new windows at Sandshore Elementary School; and even two solar fields at Sandshore and Tinc Road schools.
Mt. Olive schools was placed on the map once again recently when MOHS was ranked by “Newsweek Magazine” as one of the best public high schools in New Jersey, ranked in the top 500 in the nation, and 50 in NJ. With continued growth in its programs and facilities, the district continues to step it up.
“I’m looking forward to having our best year ahead for 2017,” says Dr. Larrie Reynolds, superintendent of schools. Mt. Olive offers a lot in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) but it also offers a lot in academics, performing arts, music and art, science and social studies, says Reynolds.
“It’s the whole thing, also sports, new facilities, new programs,” says Reynolds. “It’s everything from athletics to rock-n-roll; it’s everything in between.”
One “great big change for fall,” says Reynolds is the expansion of programs at the high school. Last year students could take engineering one, but this year that program has been expanded to engineering two, with a “new room, first of its kind maker bot innovation lab.” Similar labs are in colleges, but this is the first in a high school, says Reynolds.
Called the Marauder Innovation Learning Lab, “the old pit,” “the MILL,” students will be engineering certain problems in which they will take things apart to see how they work, explains Reynolds. They will use different methods and materials such as soldering, sewing, metal and wool and will learn from three-dimensional prototypes.
“An aerospace type program,” Reynolds says students in grades nine through 12 will be invited to work inside the mill during school and for after school clubs to create things such three dimensional prints and bracelets.
Reynolds was also excited about the music and fine arts offering at the high school and middle school with the introduction of a new elective course called the Rock-N-Roll Academy. While most schools teach jazz and other genres, Mt. Olive students will tune into rock-n-roll and how to play popular rock music hits, or make up their own, using key instruments such as guitars, bass, drums and amplifiers.
At the high school, students can take advantage of a new state-of-the art recording studio with a high tech sound board. What was once an “old run down” “boarded up” 20,000 square foot space has been “transformed into something magnificent.”
Two veteran rock producer-engineers have helped to create a state-of- the-art audio studio at MOHS. Record producer and engineer Tony
Bongiovi, and record producer, engineer, and mixer Ron Saint Germain have
been developing the studio since the fall 2015.
Bongiovi, a cousin to rocker Jon Bon Jovi, has engineered records for Stevie
Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Diana Ross and The Temptations, and as a
producer, he contributed to more than 40 gold and platinum records for artists
such as Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne. Saint Germain has produced and
engineered work for U2, Creed, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Michael Jackson.
The studio was expected to officially open in September with the school’s audio engineering course to begin. This course will teach students “to learn on the best board” how to record, says Reynolds, providing students who plan to go into broadcasting and television “high quality professional experience.”
Students from elementary through high school, whether in the chorus, instrumental, singers or orchestra “will be able to record their music and leave with a CD,” says Reynolds.
Also at the high school, students can appreciate a new turf field installed this summer, replacing the artificial turf field put in 11 years ago, to be used for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey games.
For those who have visited the high school so far this year, notice the new spirit signs around the school building and fields that mention “pride;” new windows replaced on the old section of the building; resurfaced walls with a roofing material to prevent leaks from the 1970 structure; and the subtle change of concrete color on a portion of the building so the entire exterior will soon match, notes Reynolds.
At the middle school, tennis courts have been resurfaced to repair large cracks and a fifth court has been added to accommodate five-game tennis matches so teams “will get through it quicker and not play in the dark,” says Reynolds.
Sandshore Elementary School will be getting all new windows this year; and Sandshore and Tinc Elementary schools have gotten two solar fields installed which are expected to generate 75 percent of the schools’ electricity. The district expects to save $60,000 to $80,000 from the new source of energy.
To keep students on target for testing to meet graduation requirements, such as PAARC, students will be introduced to even greater methods to encourage individual thinking.
Last year, students participated in student-led conferences to teach them to apply themselves into their learning.
“PAARC is about thinking and applying,” says Reynolds. “Getting kids into thinking,” is MO’s motto and will be stressed even more this year with an Independence Day planned for October. “Students will take over their learning” for one day, explains Reynolds.
On that day, which was not picked by press time, “students will be leading the lessons,” he says. “They will be in charge; teachers will be in the room and guiding. Students will be teaching other students. The idea is to get kids thinking and being more independent.”
In looking at the most recent PAARC results, Reynolds is not too concerned.
“Our kids this past year did amazing,” says Reynolds. “We set a record; had the highest participation rate” with 99 percent of the students taking the test. We had so many people tell us how difficult PAARC is. Our students did great!”