1. What is a Focus School?
A Focus School is similar to a magnet or theme school because of the academic concentration on one or two specialized areas embedded within the core curriculum. It differs from a magnet school in that there is no home attendance area. The Focus School is open to any student from 11 neighboring districts in the Douglas/Sarpy County Learning Community. There is a longer school calendar and a lengthened school day with special extended learning/enrichment courses Tuesday through Thursday. The school calendar is setup with mini breaks and a shorter summer break that reinforces retention and keeps learning going year round. The school prides itself in having the ideal socioeconomic mix called for in the learning community legislation, representing a lush student diversity to enhance learning. Currently we are the first and only official learning community focus school in the state of Nebraska.
2. How was the Focus School theme determined?
A random phone survey of a sampling of parents/guardians in Elkhorn, Omaha and Westside was conducted in October of 2007. The survey results along with national/international trend data gave the committee direction as to the theme, location and other important information in planning for the school. The theme of the Focus School is: Leadership through Technology & Communication. The theme is the base for our extra value standards.
3. Why might my child want to attend a Focus School?
The Wilson Focus School has many unique and attractive activities unique to our setting. The whole environment is wireless and has been setup to provide our students ease in using their individually assigned laptops (maintaining a 1:1). The school has developed into a true mirror of the learning community and students are welcomed into a community where all students are known and they have a chance to experience the talents of all teachers through enrichment classes. The enrichment classes offer many special classes that are run on a 6-8 week schedule. Some specialty classes are year round and some are short term. These classes run through our extended learning Tuesday through Thursday. The capstone projects provide fun, interactive and challenging project based learning. The media studio is run by students and they create the daily news and graphics that appear throughout the building television/web based network. Wikis and blogs provide discussion forums and areas to interact through media. The extra value standards have a curriculum that reinforces our theme, Leadership, Technology and Communication. All of the students take Strength explorer through Gallup and discover their top three talents and use them throughout their time at our school and through the pathway to middle school. The Focus School provides students exposure to a diverse population and benefits students through an enriched curriculum in an area of interest. The focus school is staffed with highly qualified individuals with expertise in specific content areas. Students have high exposure to leadership activities, communication methods, and technology opportunities. Students at the Focus School manage their own media center by being responsible for checking in, shelving, and making suggestions for purchasing of new materials. The media center also runs on a flexible schedule allowing students access to resources as needed throughout the day. The smaller size of the Focus School classrooms allows for more individualized instruction. The increased calendar and day reinforces learning and retention of learning. The project-based learning activities interwoven into the curriculum prepare students for "real life" work and careers. There is a small community, family feel along with strong positive behavior suppports to help children succeed and do their best. Strong community partnerships and parent/family involvement make Wilson the place to be!
4. Do students in the focus school study regular academic subjects?
Yes. Our core curriculum was orginally developed under the former collaboration of Elkhorn Public Schools, Omaha Public Schools and Westside Community Schools. The curriculum has evolved and represents the collaboration of a true professional learning community within Wilson Focus School. Teachers are encouraged to blend best practice and innovation to help students achieve skills and knowledge mandated in state standards. Data from assessments helps to determine student needs. In addition, students in the focus school will have special opportunities to study certain topics in-depth. There are capstone projects at each grade level (project-based learning) that progresses with our theme and allows the students to demonstrate their learning through cumulative experiences and a final project. Technology is integrated into all learning and literature and textbooks are still utilized to produce well rounded experiences. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities are promoted and can be seen throughout the curriculum.
5. Is the school accredited?
Yes. Our school spent the first three years going through the process of being NCA nationally accredited by AdavancED. The school gets ranked in seven different areas and our school received word in 2011 that we received the highest marks available in all seven areas. We were again reviewed in 2015 and received high marks in all areas again and our accreditation continues to be in place. School Improvement is a priority for us and we go above and beyond to make sure our school is the best you can attend.
6. What is enrichment?
The Focus School provides an extended day with 12 to 20 unique enrichment activities offered per week and a year-round calendar for additional learning opportunities. Enrichment activities are designed to be varied and to fit academic needs as well as physical needs. Some of the enrichment activities so far have been Archery, Public Speaking, Geocaching Basketball, Nutrition, i-movie, Web Design, Dance (Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap), Tae Kwon Do, Morning News, School Newspaper, Robotics, Beautiful Girls, Lion Leaders (Boys), Peer Ambassador Leaders, Archeology, Knitting, Readers Theater, Drama, Mandarin Chinese Language,Yoga, Book Making, Community Service, Cooking, Reading Clubs, Walking Club, Animation, Outdoor Sports, Computer Applications, Garden Club, Cheer Leading and Monster Tech. -just to name a few! Students have an opportunity to choose which activities they would want to attend at the beginning of each session (which usually lasts 8-10 weeks) and many classes run all year.
7. What Leadership Activities will my child be exposed to?
The Focus School strives to help students develop knowledge of themselves and others. Currently, students are building a personal site based on the school’s focus of Leadership through Technology and Communication. The extra value standards ensure that students are getting specific learning experiences and exposure within the theme. Each student takes the Strengths Explorer and finds out their top three talents, which is utilized throughout their time at our school and progresses with activities through the middle school experience at Lewis and Clark. The iWeb pages are a place to build self-esteem and reflect on the leadership lessons taught from the Gallup Strengths Explorer survey given to individual students and lessons based on the book The Seven Highly Effective Habits of Teens by Sean Covey. The students use an electronic portfolio to save work and for projects completed in the Media Center and in the classrooms. The Focus School also teaches and models the Six Pillars of Character taught through the Character Counts Program: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. Various methods are used to develop positive relationship building skills such as manners, problem solving, and collaboration and the reinforcing of social skills. Awareness of community needs is also stressed throughout the curriculum as well as good citizenship and service learning. Students take repsonsibility and help run many aspects of the building like: morning news, (anchors, engineers, production work, camera, graphics), ambassadors, student government, flag and lunch duty, "No Place For Hate" assemblies/activities, as well as photographing and filming school events and practicing public speaking and presentations. The Focus School provides extra opportunities to assist students in becoming more successful in school such as Love and Logic, the 40 Developmental Assets, and an extensive Positive Behavior Support plan, which allows teachers to work individually with students to meet their needs. Students earn pride powers weekly that are reinforced on our Friday news casts. The capstone projects reinforce leadership and the rubrics demonstrate learning.
8. What communication methods will my child be exposed to?
Students at the Focus School practice many forms of communication. Each day begins with a morning news show produced with student input. Daily announcements edited by students run throughout the building for staff, students, and visitors. Students may present their classroom projects in the boardroom using an interactive whiteboard. Students may participate in small group wikis or blogs on our server to communicate with partners preparing for such activities as reading or math competitions. Teachers and students communicate with each other through the use of Blackboard, Angel and other computer discussion applications. Teachers help students with communication teaching them skills such as partner or small group work, presentation of projects, and public speaking techniques while students are creating projects. Communication is built into the curriculum in daily day assignments. Due to the smaller class sizes, students have ample opportunities to practice communication skills daily. The students have presentation software on their laptops and learn proper presentation techniques. The capstone projects enhance many aspects of communication. Communication rubrics are used to demonstrate learning.
9. What technology opportunities will my child have?
The Focus School offers a 1:1 computer program that allows each student to have their own computer within a totally wireless environment. These computers have creative software applications such as: Comic Life, Apple’s Garage Band, iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, and Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint and current software to assist projects/research and learning. Each classroom is also equipped with an interactive whiteboard, a document camera, and a projector for student and teacher interactive lessons to be shared. The students learn all aspects of technology, use photography, filming, morning news through our inhouse television media studio and save work to servers and build an electronic portfolio. The capstone projects reinforce technology and this demonstrated through our rubrics that define the learning.
10. Who is eligible to attend this Focus School?
Students who will be in the third, fourth, fifth or sixth grades and who live in the Douglas/Sarpy County Learning Community will be eligible to attend, using the professional learning community application. It is open to all eleven surrounding districts.
11. What is the location of the Focus School?
The Leadership through Technology & Communication Focus School is located at Wilson Focus School, 5141 "F" Street. This state of the art building is positioned in a highly accessible location right off the interstate and 60th Street exit.
12. Will transportation be provided?
Transportation is provided for anyone who lives within the Omaha Public Schools district that meets the district requirements for distance limits. Transportation must be provided by the family for those students choosing to attend from a school district outside of Omaha Public Schools.
13. How many students will attend the Focus School?
The school has small class sizes with a student-teacher ratio of approximately 20:1. The school is third through sixth grade. We originally added classrooms gradually and built up our number of students while establishing the program. There are currently three sections of third through sixth grade for a total of 240.
14. How will the needs of students be addressed?(i.e. Special Education, Gifted, ELL)?
The instructional program will meet the identified needs of all students. The school provides support and enrichment services to address students’ instructional needs. The school has been found to be extremely successful for students of all backgrounds and needs. There is a resource program and gifted and talented program. Services for ELL are provided, as well as classes and programs that enhance all student learning.
15. How do students enroll in the Focus School?
Application can be made through the professional learning community application available to all districts. We will also have applications available through our website at wilsonfocus.ops.org. Watch the website for deadlines. If more students apply than can be placed in the Focus School, students are chosen randomly through a lottery. Students not accepted can be left on a waiting list, but need to reapply each calendar year. Sibblings of current students are given priority status.
16. Do students who are accepted for the Focus School have to apply each year to remain in the program?
No. Once a student is assigned to the focus school he/she may continue through the entire Focus School pathway or return to their home middle school after 6th grade. Once a student completes the elementary at Wilson Focus they may choose to move into the focus program at the next level. The current pathway is to Lewis and Clark Middle School for 7th and 8th grades and the pathway continues with a focus program at Burke High School.
17. What is the deadline for application?
Usually the deadline is in March, watch the website for more details. Applications are taken anytime, but dependent upon space available.