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HUHS seeks new pathways for writing

Why is there no longer a journalism class or a school newspaper at Harwood Union High School?

The school used to offer a journalism course, a hybrid model, that was taught by high school English teacher Chris Whalen and Assistant Principal Sam Krotinger. The pair worked the class from two different aspects: one, the journalistic aspect; and the other, digital production and layout.

The Valley Reporter was surprised to hear from a current Harwood student that the course was no longer offered. Curiosity provoked this reporter to get the inside scoop from Whalen and Krotinger.

“It was offered for many years,” Whalen said. “I originally taught it on my own before Sam and I teamed up and created The Common Ground course and it went for years, but, bottom line, like a lot of senior electives, the numbers dropped off and there wasn’t enough there to continue the course,” said Whalen.

“It’s hard to find a media vehicle right now that reaches all of our kids like the newspaper used to,” said Krotinger.

The lack of students registering for the course was the biggest factor in its discontinuation. As curriculum and electives change, teachers also get moved around for scheduling, so time commitments for both students and staff became another factor.

The course ran for a nine-year span starting as a one-semester elective and evolving into a yearlong course in which Krotinger taught layout and production while Whalen handled the journalism aspect. Fellow English teacher Steve Rand also joined the mix when scheduling became difficult for Whalen to continue the class, as he taught AP English as well.

After seeing that students seemed less interested in creating a print edition, the newspaper staff attempted a new model to gain student interest in an online revamp. Rand and Krotinger revamped the class into a hybrid model.

“In that first year, Mr. Rand and I created a digital version of the newspaper online and had it on social media. The year after that we retuned it again and we made it a 21st-century journalism class and called it Digital Media Studies. It was project based – students were telling stories but could tell them through documentarian film, slideshows, audio pieces,” said Krotinger.

That class, too, was canceled due to curriculum change, logistics and interest in the class.

“There are a lot of things we would like to offer here, but there are often logistics that either restrain or curtail the ability for them to be offered successfully as a class,” said Krotinger.

Whalen is in the process of starting the journalism-focused course again as students expressed interest in it. Whalen is working on proposing a course to the school board – which ultimately approves the electives for the next academic year.

Tagged under HUHS Journalism
The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971