It has all sorts of accessibility and building issues, its gymnasium and auditorium are too small for a school its size and its athletic fields are woefully inadequate. In short, Doherty High is in need of a major makeover and expansion, or it needs to be replaced with a new facility. Under the MSBA program, in which the state partners with the city on the cost of school projects, consideration has to be given first to renovating the existing school.
Given the many building issues with Doherty, that is probably not a viable or cost-effective option. Next, consideration has to be given to building a new school on the existing campus, as is going to be done with South High. But while there is plenty of room on the South High campus to accommodate the construction of a new school building, such a luxury does not exist at Doherty, where space is at a premium.
To expand the existing school building or build a new one could very well require the taking of more park land. As a result, they have pretty much made it clear that the use of any additional park land for a new Doherty High is a nonstarter as far as they are concerned. If nothing can be done on the current Doherty campus, the final option would be to find a site off-campus within the Doherty quadrant, which pretty much encompasses the West Side of Worcester.
The one hitch about sites that are privately owned is that the city would be responsible for percent of the acquisition costs. Given the amount of land needed for such a new school that could prove to be a hefty additional expense.
Most of the land owned by the city in the Doherty quadrant is either already used for schools, parks or conservation land, or they are not big enough for a high school project. He said there is a definite need for the Doherty replacement project, but does not want to see the city shelling out big bucks to acquire a privately owned property if it doesn't have to.
Vecchio has suggested that consideration be given to the Chandler Magnet School site, which has wide open athletic fields behind it. Math teachers at Oak Middle School have been using a Web-based tutoring system that allows them to do this.
Through the system, they can immediately track their students' progress on homework. As soon as students complete their work, their teachers know which students are excelling and which are struggling.
If they answer incorrectly, the program gives them hints until they get the answer right. Students who answer incorrectly are given additional questions, forcing them to practice more. Teachers can log on to the system and see how each student fared. Courtney Mulcahy, eighth-grade math teacher at the middle school, receives a report every morning of how her students did on the previous night's homework.
That report helps her plan what to discuss in the classroom. If most of the class breezed through questions 1 through 6 but was stuck on question 7, she knows to focus on question 7 right away. She helped lead a demonstration of the program yesterday to teachers from districts across Central Massachusetts.
Heffernan, associate professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, developed the program over the last seven years with his wife, Cristina Heffernan, also a WPI professor. Several graduate students also work on the program. Douglas, Grafton, Mendon-Upton, Millbury, Nashoba, Northbridge, Oxford, Webster, Worcester and many other districts have said they're interested in using the program in their classrooms.
Heffernan believes his assessment system and the immediate feedback it provides is the way of the future. Because the program offers coached problem-solving, ASSISTments is different from other Web programs teachers and students use, he added.
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