The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


Cherry Hill Public Schools wants to move the Alternative High School to East. Here is why Eastside disagrees

Eastside Staff
Eastside Opinions Editor, Manar Hadi (’25), expresses his ideas before the board.

On March 21, the Cherry Hill High School East community was informed that the Coles Alternative High School (AHS) Program will be brought to the East campus next year. The AHS currently operates out of the Arthur Lewis Administration Building. Next year, the AHS will relocate to East as a school-within-a-school model. The primary goal of moving the AHS to East is to give AHS students more access to electives and activities. East principal Dr. Dennis Perry wrote in a letter to the East community that this change “aligns with our commitment to inclusivity and acceptance within our community.” While Eastside supports and encourages this commitment to inclusivity and acceptance, there are some concerns regarding the changes that come with this merger. The purpose of the AHS is to give students the opportunity to learn within a smaller and less-overwhelming environment. However, Eastside believes that the already-crowded East building will fail to provide that environment for those students. Moreso, Eastside recognizes that the merger will limit available classroom spaces for East students. As such, Eastside strongly believes that it would be most beneficial for the AHS program to continue operating out of its current location.

While the announcement of the new AHS program seemed sudden, Cherry Hill superintendent Dr. Kwame Morton explained that the district has been discussing this change for two decades and was very close to making the move seven or eight years ago. Although this plan has been in the works for a long time, several details seem unclear. For example, when asked what the current AHS building, the Arthur Lewis Administration Building, will be used for next year, Morton answered that they “haven’t had those discussions just yet.” Furthermore, it is unclear how much money will be saved by moving the AHS to East. As the district is facing a $6.9 million budget deficit next year, it would be helpful to know how much money can be saved with this change.

Another concern that Eastside has is whether all of the AHS students are willing to come to East. Some of the AHS students formerly attended East but switched to the AHS in order to learn in a smaller and less-overwhelming environment. Other students opted for the AHS after experiencing bullying and discrimination at East. When making the decision to switch the AHS to East, it seems the AHS students were left out of the discussion.
Morton explained that the school-within-a-school model will allow these students to maintain the resources currently available to them. However, AHS students will still be in the same building as over 2,500 other people. Additionally, AHS students will be allowed to enroll in East electives which can have class sizes of around 30 students. Many AHS students have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that include specified class sizes that the student’s classes cannot exceed. In order to allow AHS students to take East electives, many students’ IEPs will likely have to change. These IEPs have been created for a reason and it’s not moral to change them to fit these circumstances. If an AHS student cannot learn successfully in this environment, the district will have to pay for that student to attend another school — potentially costing the district more than $100,000 for just one student.

As for East students, the addition of the AHS will result in significant changes. Notably, half of B-wing will be set aside for AHS classes, which is currently used for social studies classes. With the AHS classes using B-wing, social studies classes will be dispersed throughout various parts of the building. To make up for this deficit of classroom space, larger rooms like the annex and robotics room may be divided into two or three rooms. Moreover, teachers will likely have to share their classrooms with other teachers throughout the day. As it is, many teachers are required to share classrooms due to space issues at East. With the introduction of the AHS, classroom sharing will occur on a larger scale. Since teachers don’t have classes for all eight periods of the day, their rooms are often empty for two or three periods. By losing access to half of the B-wing classrooms, random classes will likely occupy these classrooms during their unused periods. As a result, teachers will not be able to decorate their classrooms and make them their own “home” within East.

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“The space concerns are definitely real concerns,” Morton said. “I’m not sure if you realize it or not, but teachers are somewhat territorial of [their spaces]. It becomes like a secondary home, so it’s always difficult to move any person or any teacher, because they put their heart and soul into what they do.”

Morton said that the district administration intends to involve teachers when planning for next year. However, East teachers were not consulted when the decision to move the AHS to East was made. Overall, many East teachers are upset with this lack of transparency and inclusion in these discussions. The district takes pride in its efforts to listen to student voices. However, neither East nor AHS students were given the opportunity to voice their opinions about this change. Parents and community members feel similar vexation, as the district administration did not consider their thoughts and concerns when making this decision.

Through social media, many community members have demonstrated their animosity towards the AHS. Eastside does not condone these hateful comments. Further, Eastside faults the district administration for not responding to these hateful comments and believes that the district’s lack of clarity is a major cause of these community reactions.

Eastside understands the district’s reasoning behind moving the AHS to East: to provide AHS students with more opportunities for electives and activities. Yet Eastside does not see it feasible for this to occur. Eastside, along with many students and faculty members from both schools, struggle to understand how this merger will benefit everyone. Due to the lack of preparedness with building plans and budget changes, lack of space and minimal transparency and communication, Eastside urges the district to reverse its decision to move the AHS to East.

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    Beth BeckerApr 11, 2024 at 8:35 am

    Though I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I think the rebuilding of F wing in the bond is the perfect opportunity for this – with the B wing plan, Cole’s Program students will have to walk through C wing intersection to go anywhere but the library, in addition to the spacing issues you mention. A reconfigured F wing, which is being torn down and rebuilt as part of the bond, is a quieter location for Coles classes, but still accessible enough for students to take electives or other classes with the East community if desired.