While these learning programs can affect students’ education, there are also many social and emotional impacts that come with sectioning — both positive and negative.
“We want them to challenge themselves, but we also want them to design a schedule to help them be successful along with having a balance [so] that you still have time just to be a teenager. And that’s hard,” said Guidance Counselor Paul Breitbach. “I’m a firm believer that you can go anywhere and get a great education. The line I use [with] students is that it’s more important what you do where you’re at than where you’re at.”
While students can find success outside or within the programs, Kelly believes that separating students can have long-term effects.
“I think all students should interact with all students at some point in their schooling experiences,” Kelly said. “Once you get out of school, you interact with all types of people.”
West High’s motto, “where excellence is a tradition,” speaks to many of its opportunities and programs that excel in their respective fields.
“I think one of the great things about our school is we set high expectations, and we challenge students at the same time. This may sound odd, [but] that’s also one of the things that sometimes is a negative,” Breitbach said. “I’ve seen students, for lack of better words, kind of get sucked into the vortex.”
For Molly Abraham, West High assistant principal and former special education teacher, the school culture has become more inclusive during her years at West.
“When I first started here in 1984, it wasn’t as good,” Abraham said. “I don’t see kids getting teased for looking different or for not being able to do this or that. West High kids have stepped up to the plate as far as kids with disabilities, and that’s one thing I really respect about West.”
Special education teacher Steve Merkle echoes these sentiments and believes there is a positive environment for special education students at West High.
“I have never felt like the special ed kids in West High were dealt any more disrespect than any kid or any group of kids,” Merkle said. “I think maybe even our special ed department gets more respect. We have programs like Best Buddies [and] some of the neatest kids I’ve ever met have come to my classroom just to be student helpers.”