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The last new high school Middletown will ever have?

We are happy and proud to see the new Middletown Area High School open and full of students. It’s a jewel that we hope several generations of our young people will use to the best of their abilities.But here’s an interesting thought to ponder as we enjoy the shiny new campus: Is this the last new high school Middletown will ever have?

The old high school lasted more than 50 years. Imagine yourself a school official in 1962 trying to look forward to what not only education but society and technology would be like in 2016. Impossible.

That was the task faced by planners of the new school, which in many ways feels like a college campus and is driven by technology and the varying ways that students learn. There is plenty of open, adaptable space. What will a school need in 2066?

It begs the question: When this building wears down decades from now, will the thought of hundreds of students gathering in a central place to learn be as antiquated as chalkboards and paddling?

The district is very proud of its Raider Academy, a cyber-program for district students who seek an alternative to the brick-and-mortar school setting. It had almost 80 full-time students last year and could grow larger this fall. One of the district’s teachers prepared an entire online biology course that will be rolled out this school year.

Technology is going to continue to advance in ways most of us have not considered. Even if you are not a proponent of cyberschools, it’s hard to deny that in a decade or so, there might not be any more benefit to learning in a classroom than there is remotely.

There are heavy costs associated with building a school (this one cost $41 million), with heating a school, with updating a school, with transporting students to school. When will we reach the tipping point when it isn’t financially or educationally beneficial to have students meet in a central location?

We certainly can debate the potential loss of social interaction that young people would miss out on if they weren’t all together each day. But what if technology provides for virtual classrooms that allow interaction as though students were all in the same room?

It’s simply not difficult to imagine a day in the not-too-distant-future when remote learning is the norm.

Students won’t be tethered to their desks in the new school as it is. As Dan Miller reported in his story last week, you will find students working independently on their own, or working together in small groups. There are four “flexible” classroom areas aimed at preparing students for a college learning atmosphere.

Ah, but even that college atmosphere is changing. Institutions such as the University of Phoenix with its mostly online curriculum used to be ridiculed. That’s not the case anymore.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much. Let’s enjoy the sparkling facilities and hope they are a great place to foster learning in our young people. It’s a building of which the district and its residents should be proud.We are happy and proud to see the new Middletown Area High School open and full of students. It’s a jewel that we hope several generations of our young people will use to the best of their abilities.But here’s an interesting thought to ponder as we enjoy the shiny new campus: Is this the last new high school Middletown will ever have?

The old high school lasted more than 50 years. Imagine yourself a school official in 1962 trying to look forward to what not only education but society and technology would be like in 2016. Impossible.

That was the task faced by planners of the new school, which in many ways feels like a college campus and is driven by technology and the varying ways that students learn. There is plenty of open, adaptable space. What will a school need in 2066?

It begs the question: When this building wears down decades from now, will the thought of hundreds of students gathering in a central place to learn be as antiquated as chalkboards and paddling?

The district is very proud of its Raider Academy, a cyber-program for district students who seek an alternative to the brick-and-mortar school setting. It had almost 80 full-time students last year and could grow larger this fall. One of the district’s teachers prepared an entire online biology course that will be rolled out this school year.

Technology is going to continue to advance in ways most of us have not considered. Even if you are not a proponent of cyberschools, it’s hard to deny that in a decade or so, there might not be any more benefit to learning in a classroom than there is remotely.

There are heavy costs associated with building a school (this one cost $41 million), with heating a school, with updating a school, with transporting students to school. When will we reach the tipping point when it isn’t financially or educationally beneficial to have students meet in a central location?

We certainly can debate the potential loss of social interaction that young people would miss out on if they weren’t all together each day. But what if technology provides for virtual classrooms that allow interaction as though students were all in the same room?

It’s simply not difficult to imagine a day in the not-too-distant-future when remote learning is the norm.

Students won’t be tethered to their desks in the new school as it is. As Dan Miller reported in his story last week, you will find students working independently on their own, or working together in small groups. There are four “flexible” classroom areas aimed at preparing students for a college learning atmosphere.

Ah, but even that college atmosphere is changing. Institutions such as the University of Phoenix with its mostly online curriculum used to be ridiculed. That’s not the case anymore.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much. Let’s enjoy the sparkling facilities and hope they are a great place to foster learning in our young people. It’s a building of which the district and its residents should be proud.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2016 16:14

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Embrace Penn State Harrisburg; it plays key role for borough

The greater Middletown area has a huge resource in its midst, and it must do all it can to maximize the benefits it can provide.

Penn State Harrisburg welcomed its first class 50 years this fall, and it has transformed from a former Air Force base into a thriving institution of higher learning.

The futures of the area and the college are intertwined. While they don’t necessarily need each other to succeed, it would certainly be better for both if they worked together to do so. And Middletown probably needs Penn State Harrisburg more than Penn State Harrisburg needs Middletown.

Any lingering resentment that some residents have toward its students — that they are troublemakers, that they are lawbreakers, that they are more trouble than they’re worth — needs to be put in the past. We are happy to hear that it sounds like those old attitudes are starting to diminish.

There will 5,000 of them who will be in classes up on that hill across Route 230 this fall. That’s 5,000 people who are going to spend money on clothes, food, entertainment, gas, housing. There are areas of this country that would give anything to have such a resource in their community.

So the opportunity is here. We have a nearly completed streetscape project. We have a bridge that will lead students over Route 230 down Emaus Street into the heart of the borough. We have a growing brewery/still works. But do we have the businesses need to draw young people? Where are the clothing stores that cater to a younger crowd? Where is the bookstore/coffeeshop? Where is the place to see a movie or concert? In fact, where is even a bicycle shop, something that Middletown Borough Councilor Diana McGlone mentioned she hears from students?

Middletown is never likely to have a mall. It’s not going to offer dozens upon dozens of shopping options. But it needs to try.

How is the tougher question. There is a lack of available storefronts, and we need to have the entrepreneurs who will take the risk as well.

It won’t be easy. Penn State Harrisburg is quickly becoming its own little city. It has a coffeeshop. It has a place to eat. It has a new Student Enrichment Center that includes a theater.

But students will leave campus if businesses or other attractions provide a reason for them to do so.

What should happen?

If the Elks Theatre can become a multi-purpose location that includes movies and concerts, that would be a plus.

If the storefront at the southeast corner of Union and Emaus streets could be occupied by a business that caters to students, that would be great.

If the McNair House could house some unique businesses on the first floor of the building, that might draw students.

If the space that had been home to the Klahr Jewelry Store could offer a location for a small business or greenspace, that also would add to the downtown’s diversity. 

The former Bunky’s need to become something. The owners seem unwilling to make this happen. But that storefront property is a commodity that needs to be put to good use, and borough leaders need to pressure the owners as much as possible to sell it or develop it.

Students are coming not only from Pennsylvania and the United States, but from around the world. Soon, 20 percent could be from other countries.

So what would we have them, as well as the students from other parts of Pennsylvania and the United States, tell their families and friends when they go home? That Middletown was a sleepy little place that lacked anything to do and was suspicious of students? Or that it was a welcoming borough that made its students feel welcome and offered at least some cool shops and attractions?

The opportunities are there but so are the challenges. Our area has never shied away from trials, no matter their difficulty. The paths we may take could be debated ad nauseum — second guessed. But rest assured avenues must be traveled for the greater Middletown area to reach a bright and prosperous future.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 16:31

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