METHUEN — When the new high school building opens for the year, current Rangers won’t be the only ones to benefit. This week, interim Director of Career Vocational and Technical Education Nick Collopy worked to put the final touches on a new classroom where students in the Early Childhood Education program will work with members of the class of 2028.
The preschool classroom, dubbed “Little Rangers,” offers high school students the chance to gain real world experience in their chosen field while providing an affordable preschool option to area families, Collopy said. In 2012, the school administration was met with resistance from the community when they made the decision to move the preschool program into the Timony Grammar School during the high school renovation. But Collopy feels the revamped program will be better than ever.
“Students work with the kids on whatever the academic component is at that time or engage in some sort of structured play. It offers a lasting benefit and it provides basically hands-on experience for when those students go to apply to a future teaching position or a preschool,” he said.
The Little Rangers classroom will be overseen by two certified instructors. The program is unique, Collopy said, in that most public schools are not able to offer vocational training programs like Methuen’s. In addition to early childhood education, students enrolled in the Career Vocational and Technical Education program have the opportunity to study marketing in business, programming and web development and accounting. Improved fashion and design and biotechnology courses have been added to the catalog this year due to new labs in the building.
A few courses are offered as electives open to all students, and in the future Collopy hopes to push for a personal finance course to be added as a graduation requirement. But for the most part, the courses in the vocational program ares designed for students that have committed to that course of study. Any student can opt to join after their freshman year.
“You have to enroll in the program and be committed to it,” Collopy said. “A bunch have come back to us with awesome jobs -- better than ours.”
The vocational program has been a part of Methuen High School for years. Collopy himself graduated from it 1999. Though Collopy said it has always represented a strong part of Methuen’s curriculum, it suffered due to limited resources in the old building and disruptions to do the renovation project. Collopy has been an employee in the school district for 12 years, but this is his first year heading up the program. The job went unfilled during the renovation, School Superintendent Judith Scannell said.
In particular, the preschool program was modified, and the role of high school students reduced. During 2012 meetings about the preschool program, the administration cited safety concerns with high school students walking to the preschool class once it moved. The preschool, then known as Rangerland, operated out of the Timony School during the 2013-2014 school year.
“We’ve run it but it has been very bare bones,” Scannell said.
The old school was a morning preschool, but Collopy said Little Rangers will offer late drop off and early pickup. The preschool is open to all surrounding communities, and will offer a convenient and affordable option to staff members of the high school and surrounding schools, he said. He also said the preschool curriculum will go “above and beyond” in terms of its academic component and the technology and resources available to students.
“Enrollment has been positive and the community has been very positive in seeing that it’s offered. I feel that in the future, we can expect that this program will really take off, and it might be a nice compliment to the overall renovation. Everything is coming together nicely,” Collopy said.