The Medford School District's alternative high school will have a new name and a new location next fall.
Three-year-old Medford Opportunity High School will be called Central Medford High School next year and will occupy a portion of the old South Medford High School building at 815 S. Oakdale Ave. The school was previously on Earhart Street, between Riverside Avenue and Interstate 5, about a half-mile east of the new site.
South Medford staff members were scheduled to wrap up their move today into the new high school at the intersection of Columbus and Cunningham avenues in southwest Medford.
The Medford School Board approved the Central Medford High School name change Tuesday.
"The biggest reason our students chose that name is equity," said Central Medford Principal Guy Tutland. "It's very important for them to feel they're receiving the same services as other high school students but an alternative learning option. The name implies equality."
Tutland said the school's new name also signifies the geographic location of the school, the same way North Medford and South Medford high schools earned their names.
As a part of its reincarnation, the school also is restructuring, Tutland said. The school already has obtained provisional accreditation from the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.
"Next year, we will go through the formal cycle, and we'll be accredited as a regular high school," Tutland said.
The school will switch to a model of team teaching, which is popular in other high schools in Southern Oregon. An English teacher is typically paired with a social studies teacher, and the teachers try to integrate the curriculum. Students will stay with the two teachers for a period of 12 weeks and then move on to another pair of teachers to study other subjects. The idea is to strengthen the relationships between the teachers and students, Tutland said.
"What research and our own experience tell us is that building strong relationships is what gets students engaged in school," he said.
That's important because the school has a highly transient population. Many students come from unstable family situations, and their school often serves as a stable place in their lives, Tutland said.
There still will online and in-class options for independent study for students who want to make up missed credits or who have to work school around a job or a baby, the principal said.
The school will continue some of its service learning projects with nonprofits, such as the Equamore Foundation and the Job Council, and expects to expand that program next year, he said.
Some students said they want to shed the stigma that's been attached to Medford Opportunity. Tutland said they thought the name change would help accomplish that. Although the school serves suspended and expelled students who often struggle to graduate, it's also a school of choice for some students, who prefer the smaller atmosphere and customized education, he said. There are about 200 students attending the alternative school at any given time, compared with nearly 2,000 each at North and South high schools.
Central will operate out of the southwest portion of the old South high school. The move saves the district about $60,000 a year in lease costs.
Crews are remodeling the former South library to serve as the school's new lobby and gateway to the rest of the school. At about 17,000 square feet, the space is larger than the Earhart location. The Central high wing will have about nine classrooms.
"It's a fabulous upgrade for us," said Tresa King, a secretary at Central. She, Tutland and several teachers browsed through furniture in a woodshop at South high school Wednesday, looking for items to furnish Central's new location.
The school will share the building with the district's central administration and other district services. The district is spending about $3 million to remodel the building this summer for those purposes. The money comes from a bond measure passed by voters and used to upgrade or rebuild schools across the district.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.