Thursday, April 24, 2014

COBBS: Students driving toward adulthood

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School | 12/16/2013

As the needs of our students continue to rise, the expectations of schools to meet those needs continue to rise right along with them.

Schools across the nation now are mandated to provide vision, hearing and dental screenings to every student. Our meal programs have expanded to now include breakfast with several schools within our district putting meals in backpacks so that our students can eat over the weekend. We have implemented whole programs like Communities in Schools to ensure the needs of our students are being met in an effort to help guarantee their ability to learn in our schools is not thwarted by external forces out of the student’s control.  

As the needs of our students continue to rise, the expectations of schools to meet those needs continue to rise right along with them.

Schools across the nation now are mandated to provide vision, hearing and dental screenings to every student. Our meal programs have expanded to now include breakfast with several schools within our district putting meals in backpacks so that our students can eat over the weekend. We have implemented whole programs like Communities in Schools to ensure the needs of our students are being met in an effort to help guarantee their ability to learn in our schools is not thwarted by external forces out of the student’s control.  

Ottawa High School officials believe we are tasked with a great number of expectations beyond the standard reading, writing and arithmetic. As our students grow into young adulthood, two of the great landmarks of life are the day when we earn our driver’s license and, of course, the day we get that first car. A great deal of the students enrolled at OHS drive themselves to school every day, leaving us with one more of those external factors that need addressed.  

With driver safety being a priority for the partnership between OHS and the Ottawa Police Department, the implementation of Seatbelts are for Everyone (SAFE) is a great fit. The OHS SAFE organization has provided a great deal of information to our students in a number of different ways, and since its inception we have seen a dramatic increase in students wearing their seat belts to school on a consistent basis. This partnership also provided us the opportunity to put on one of the greatest assemblies we have seen at OHS in the 13 years I have been a member of its staff.

Because of our commitment as a SAFE school and the connections of Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, we were selected by Laura Moore and the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office in partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation to be one of three Kansas schools to pilot the “Think Fast” interactive assembly. This group created an incredible atmosphere for our students that was engaging, positive and fun while still providing information on the need to drive safely with an emphasis on not texting and driving.

As our students came in to the gym, they were given a clicker device that allowed them to participate in the game. More than 70 teams were created with points being awarded for being able to answer questions on pop culture and state driving laws. The top two teams were able to choose one team member to represent them in the final showdown. A third and fourth finalist were then chosen based upon a challenge in which they had to perform in front of the student body. These four people then were challenged with questions, with the person answering three correctly winning $200 in iTunes gift cards for the first-place team.

Although it is not necessarily the school’s responsibility in many people’s eyes to teach driver safety to our students, this assembly and other SAFE-led programs have been an important part of what we do. We know that as our students become involved in more as they get older, the school is the lone common thread. Because of that, it becomes the role of the school to ensure our students not only learn, but that they are healthy, fed and safe. This is a role OHS holds with great importance and will continue to look for ways to improve upon in the future.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at cobbsr@usd290.org or call (785) 229-8020.

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