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Published: Thursday, 8/26/2010

New Woodward school stands in stark contrast to its predecessor

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Woodward High for some neighborhood students counts as the best and most stable place to be. Woodward High for some neighborhood students counts as the best and most stable place to be.
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Emilio Ramirez was worried about special markers for classroom white boards and AA batteries for cordless microphones teachers now wear in class similar to talk-show guests.

What budget do you use to buy those little things, he wondered.

When opening a new school and starting a new year, it's the little things - not so critical, but vexing when you don't have them.

The principal also worried about a not-so-little thing: electricity.

He learned Wednesday there might not be power when the new, $25 million Calvin M. Woodward High School opens for the first day of class today. A parent called to warn him that Toledo Edison scheduled repairs in the North Toledo neighborhood for today and planned to cut power.

"We have backup generators, but they haven't been tested," he said as he hurried to his office to call the utility. "We would have to do that tonight."

The new Woodward opens next to the old Woodward High that still stands in late-1920s brick-and-trim, but eventually will be razed.

Jamie Farr and Danny Thomas - the intergenerational comedic pride of Toledo - attended school in the old building.

Alice Murray, who teaches health and first aid, unpacks the devices she will use to teach resuscitation techniques. Alice Murray, who teaches health and first aid, unpacks the devices she will use to teach resuscitation techniques.
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The new school stands a few feet away from the old structure at East Central and Stickney avenues as a gleaming, stone-sculpted monument to new school construction in an economically challenged part of town.

The school, like others in Toledo this decade, are being built or finished under the auspices of a state bond program and the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The program requires a match with some local bond money.

Woodward High for some students in the neighborhood counts as the best and most stable place to be. There aren't many youth amenities in the area hemmed in by changing neighborhoods and I-75 and I-280.

About 65 percent of he school's students apply for federal free-and-reduced lunch. The figure could easily be 90 percent if all who qualified took advantage, Mr. Ramirez said.

Teachers at Woodward - some graduates of the school when the area was doing better - pride themselves on providing a stable place for many of the students who might have tumultuous home lives, they said.

"Obviously, it doesn't have as much character as the old building. But it's so clean and organized and new," said Heather Ladd, a social studies teacher who graduated from the old school. "It will really foster creativity. The kids at Woodward, they're great. They're really resilient."

Along the vein of creating stability, staff and teachers discussed and then voted on a proposed scheduling change that would add a 14-minute homeroom period during the third period.

A successful school day is also about the manipulation of hundreds of minutes that can be stolen, stretched, and contorted to squeeze out extra useful time for education.

In the case of the homeroom scheme, one minute is taken from each of the seven, 48-minute class periods, and another minute is stolen from each of the seven, 5-minute periods between bells when students are meant to be rushing to their next class.

It adds up to 14 extra minutes for a homeroom period. And it's the third period, so students don't skip it in the morning.

Some high schools have it, others don't.

There's debate in educational circles about its usefulness. If not structured, 14 minutes can devolve into talking among students and wasted time.

Teachers said it provides stability, a place to call home for 14 minutes, to hear public address announcements and learn about school news. It's time enough to learn one succinct fact or lesson from the homeroom teacher.

Woodward's staff voted in favor 41-7, only a three-vote cushion because the measure needed an 80 percent affirmative vote, Mr. Ramirez said.

Alice Murray teaches health and first aid. Her classes can count for credit at Owens Community College. Wednesday, she prepared for class, pulling out dummies of babies, children, and adults on which students will practice their life-saving techniques.

She said she voted for the homeroom plan because the new school needs to champion new ideas.

"I want to see what happens," she said, adding that too often, "brilliant ideas" aren't given a chance.

As the principal walked from the meeting where teachers voted on the homeroom plan, he came across a custodian using her friend's new invention - a white rag tied to the end of a rope wrapped around her hand.

When she came across a smudge on the new and shining hallway floor, she stepped on the rag and rubbed it out with her foot: no stooping, no bad back.

She came across a particularly bad smudge in front of the Woodward World War II memorial, an inlaid tablet carved with names of the war dead who attended Woodward.

The custodian poured water on the black smudge and worked it out using the foot method.

She and her co-worker laughed as Mr. Ramirez applauded the ingenuity.

Later, Mr. Ramirez said the utility was persuaded to delay work that might have cut electricity to the school this morning.

Contact Christopher D.

Kirkpatrick at:

ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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