The Dustdevils start up school

It's all about lunch. And today, with school started at Dayton High School, the 225 freshmen will actually have a full 50-minute lunch.

But Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday of each week, that lunch will be much shorter. Friday, it's back to a full 50 minutes.

It's a program in its third year at the school called FTP - the Freshman Transition Program.

Freshmen report to a pre-assigned classroom during the first half of the lunch period to do 25 minutes worth of activities with their JCs, or junior consultants - juniors or seniors at the high school.

"Our whole job is to make the freshmen feel comfortable here and get them used to the school," said junior Zach Karges, a JC, all of whom wore white T-shirts during last week's freshman orientation.

The 25-minutes can also be used to work on homework. It's up to the JC and the teacher they partner with. According to Spanish teacher Julie Lozada, with whom Zach is working this year, the FTP program started three years ago as part of Dayton High School's school improvement plan, required under No Child Left Behind.

Many freshmen were falling behind in school because they were failing just one class, she said. The program, based loosely on LINK, which is used in schools throughout the nation and at Carson High School the past two years, was geared to help freshmen.

"I think it's been a resounding success," she said. "I'm really proud we did it. "We not only made adequate yearly progress, we made high achieving."

She's talking about No Child Left Behind. There are two areas under that legislation where schools can be identified as "high achieving." The first is status, which means that in all tested groups, the school significantly exceeded measurable objectives in math and English-language arts. The second is in growth, which means the school significantly decreased the percent of students failing math and English-language arts proficiencies.

Dayton High School was high achieving in growth. It has made adequate yearly progress the past three years.

Wednesday of last week, freshman students arrived for orientation and broke into the FTP groups they will meet at lunch throughout the year.

They toured the school, found and tried the combinations to their lockers, and went back to a classroom to ask questions. Students wanted to know more about use of cell phones, the school's dress code, how much time they have between classes and even about the schedule on the first day.

"Monday, you'll show up, you'll go to the assembly and you'll go through all your classes on the first day," Lozada said.

Zach and Lozada showed their group of eight the library, the registrar's office, the nurse's office and even the guidance office. They toured all four buildings on the campus.

"Kids are in here all the time the first two weeks of school trying to get their schedules fixed," Zach said of the guidance office.

But many of the students don't have the same fears expressed recently by freshmen at Carson High School, which started last week and is much larger. Last year's enrollment was 2,576. Dayton High School, by comparison, had 660 students enrolled.

Most of the students in Lozada's group knew each other from middle school, except for Karina Bergesen, a 14-year-old who moved from California earlier this year and spent the last semester at Dayton Intermediate School.

"I'm looking forward to meeting new friends," she said. 'There's going to be a lot more activities and a lot more kids."

She has already joined volleyball with her friend Alicia Pistilli, 14, whom she met at Dayton Intermediate.

"We would have had volleyball practice today," said Alicia. "But we have this freshman orientation instead."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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