An orchestra will launch this year at Amherst Junior High as its pilot musicians move up from Nord Middle School.
Forty-five instrumentalists will practice one period each day this year, ramping up to even more time in the 2017-2018 year. The plan is to develop master musicians by the time they reach the high school level.
“Anna Ballmer has done a fantastic job planting that seed,” AJHS principal Ryan Coleman said, praising the Amherst orchestra director.
Music is about more than appreciation of the arts. Coleman said learning to play is important to overall development and studies have shown student musicians have stronger social, academic, and emotional skills.
Don’t expect sweeping changes this year, though, to junior high curriculum. And while there have been 30 more security cameras installed inside and outside the AJHS, there are no big repairs or construction projects planned.
Coleman said his goal is to build on the National Blue Ribbon recognition the AJHS received last year from the Ohio and U.S. departments of education and “kick it up a notch a little.”
But otherwise the school is in a kind of holding pattern until voters in November decide whether Amherst should build a new school, which would bring many changes to elementary grades. “We’re not looking for big changes this year because we know they’re probably coming the following year,” Coleman said.
If voters agree to give more than $14 million in taxes over 12 years to build a K-3 building on South Lake Street, it will mean adding sixth-graders to the junior high in 2017-2018.
In the meantime, he is praising the continuation of the Anti-Virus program introduced last year by former teacher Holly Schneider. Coleman said it flattened bullying problems at the school by “really ingraining in kids how to think a little more about their actions, their decisions.”
Still, social media has given rise to some problems at the junior high and teachers will continue to stress how online bullying has real world consequences. Kids need to understand the seriousness of those interactions.
Coleman’s message to incoming students this year: You belong at Amherst Junior High School.
“We want them to feel at home, that this is their home away from home. They are wanted here… We’re glad to have them in the school,” he said.
An open house and orientation will be held from 5-6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14 at AJHS.