FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is a Focus School?
A Focus School is similar to a magnet or theme school because of the academic concentration on one or two specialized areas embedded within the core curriculum. Our theme is "Leadership through Technology and Communication". It differs from a magnet school in that there is no home attendance area. The Focus School is open to any student from 11 neighboring districts in the Douglas/Sarpy County Learning Community. There is a longer school calendar and a lengthened school day with special extended learning/enrichment courses, Tuesday through Thursday. The school calendar is set up with mini breaks and a shorter summer break that reinforces retention and keeps learning going year round. The school prides itself in providing the socioeconomic mix called for in the learning community legislation, representing a lush student diversity to enhance learning. Currently, we are the first and only official learning community focus school in the state of Nebraska.
2. How was the Focus School theme determined?
A random phone survey of a sampling of parents/guardians in Elkhorn, Omaha and Westside was conducted in October of 2007. The survey results along with national/international trend data gave the committee direction as to the theme, location and other important information in planning for the school. The theme of the Focus School is: Leadership through Technology & Communication. The theme is the base for our extra value standards.
3. Why might my child want to attend a Focus School?
The Wilson Focus School has many attractive activities unique to our setting. The school environment is wireless and has been setup to provide our students ease in using their individually assigned laptops (maintaining a 1:1). Staff works continually with Apple coaches to enhance the technology teaching and aspects of the learning environment.
The school has developed into a true mirror of the learning community and students are welcomed into a community where all students are known and they have a chance to experience the talents of current staff and outside entities through the after-school enrichment programming. The enrichment classes offer choice and reflect a variety of interests. There are four sessions and classes run 6-7 weeks per session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Some classes are offered year-round, however most are run session by session to encourage students to try different classes throughout the school year.
Culminating year-end capstone projects provide fun, interactive and challenging project-based learning. The media studio is run by students and they create the daily news and graphics that appear throughout the building's television/web based network. Wikis and blogs provide discussion forums and areas to interact through media. The extra value standards have a curriculum that reinforces our theme of Leadership, Technology and Communication. All of the students take Strength Explorer through Gallup and discover their top three talents and implement them through lessons and project based learning.
The Focus School provides students exposure to a diverse population and benefits students through an enriched curriculum in an area of interest. The focus school is staffed with highly qualified individuals with expertise in specific content areas. Students have high exposure to leadership activities, communication methods, and technology opportunities. Students at the Focus School manage their own media center by being responsible for checking in, shelving, and making suggestions for purchasing of new materials. The media center also runs on a flexible schedule, allowing students access to resources as needed throughout the day. The smaller size of the Focus School classrooms allows for more individualized instruction. The increased calendar and day reinforces learning and retention of learning. The project-based learning activities interwoven into the curriculum prepare students for "real life" work and careers. There is a small community, family feel along with strong positive behavior supports to help children succeed and do their best. Strong community partnerships and parent/family involvement make Wilson the place to be!
4. Do students in the focus school study regular academic subjects?
Yes. Our viable curriculum is adopted through the approval of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education for Math, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies. Teachers are encouraged to blend best practice and innovation to help students achieve skills and knowledge mandated in the Nebraska state standards. Data from assessments helps to determine students' individual needs. In addition, students in the focus school will have special opportunities to study certain topics in-depth. There are capstone end of year projects at each grade level (project-based learning) that reflect our theme and allow students to demonstrate their learning through cumulative experiences. Technology is integrated into all learning while also continuing to immerse students in literature and textbooks to produce well-rounded experiences. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities are promoted and can be seen throughout the curriculum.
5. What AQuESTT rating does Wilson Focus hold?
Wilson Focus has received a 2022 EXCELLENT AQuesst rating by the State of Nebraska Department of Education.
6. What is enrichment?
The Focus School provides an extended day with 12 to 20 unique enrichment activities offered during 4 sessions on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday per week lasting 6-7 weeks. Enrichment activities are designed to be varied and fit academic needs as well as physical needs. Some of the enrichment activities, to name a few, are Soccer; Taekwondo; Walking Club; Yearbook Club; No Place for Hate Club; Cooking Club; Art/Craft Club; Pottery: Spheros; Dance; Theater; Robotics Team; Banister Leadership Academy; Sign Language, Garden Club; Yoga; Cheerleading; Needlepoint; Escape Rooms; Invention Scouts; Henry Doorly Zoo Club; Disney Musical and Girl Scouts. Students have an opportunity to choose which activities they want to attend at the beginning of each session and excitement fills the halls when they transition to these classes from 3:40-4:25, after a snack.
7. What Leadership Activities will my child be exposed to?
The Focus School strives to help students develop knowledge of themselves and others through many leadership opportunities. In the classroom, academic discourse is encouraged between peers with the teacher facilitating the discussion with higher level questioning that encourages deeper thinking and discussion. Students are grouped to promote teamwork and collaboration. Students build personal sites based on the school’s focus of "Leadership through Technology and Communication". The students use an electronic portfolio to save work and projects completed in the media center and classroom. The extra value standards ensure that students are getting specific learning experiences and exposure within the theme.
The Gallup Strengths Explorer is given to each student, and identifies their top three talents, which are then utilized throughout lessons at Wilson, helping students cultivate their strengths as leaders. The first fifteen minutes of the school day are set aside for Social Emotional Learning activities. During this time, students participate in team-building activities, along with MTSS-B (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior) with lessons and practice on procedures and routines that reinforce leadership, communication and positive relationship building skills such as manners, problem solving, collaboration and social skills.
Awareness of community needs is also stressed throughout the curriculum, as well as good citizenship and service learning. Students take responsibility and help run many aspects of the building such as, morning news, (anchors, engineers, production work, camera, graphics), ambassadors, student government, and lunch duty, "No Place For Hate" assemblies/activities, as well as photographing and filming school events and practicing public speaking and presentations. The Focus School provides extra opportunities to assist students in becoming more successful in school with a Positive Action Center, and extensive Positive Behavior Support plans, which allow teachers to work individually with students to meet their needs. Students earn pride powers weekly that are reinforced on our Friday news casts. The capstone projects reinforce leadership and the rubrics demonstrate learning.
8. What communication methods will my child be exposed to?
Students at the Focus School practice many forms of communication. Each day begins with a morning news show produced with student input. Daily announcements edited by students run throughout the building for staff, students, and visitors. Students may present their classroom projects in the boardroom using an interactive whiteboard. Students may participate in small group wikis or blogs on our server to communicate with partners preparing for activities, such as reading or math competitions. Teachers and students communicate with each other through the use of Blackboard, Angel and other computer discussion applications. Teachers help students with communication, teaching them skills such as partner or small group work, presentation of projects, and public speaking techniques while students are creating projects. Collaboration and teamwork are promoted in lessons to encourage academic discourse and higher level thinking. Communication is built into the curriculum in daily assignments. Due to the smaller class sizes, students have ample opportunities to practice communication skills daily. The students have presentation software on their laptops and learn proper presentation techniques. The capstone projects enhance many aspects of communication. Communication rubrics are used to demonstrate learning.
9. What technology opportunities will my child have?
The Focus School offers a 1:1 computer program with the use of an Apple iPad, that allows each student to have their own computer within a totally wireless environment. These computers have creative software applications such as: Comic Life, Apple’s Garage Band, iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, and Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint and current software to assist projects/research and learning. Each classroom is also equipped with an interactive whiteboard, Apple television, a document camera, and a projector for student and teacher interactive lessons to be shared. The students learn all aspects of technology, use photography, filming, morning news through our in-house television media studio and save work to servers and build an electronic portfolio. The culminating end of the year capstone projects reinforce technology and students demonstrate mastery through meeting rubric expectations. Apple coaches routinely work with our staff and students to enhance the learning experience using iPads.
10. Who is eligible to attend this Focus School?
Students who will be in the third, fourth, fifth or sixth grades and who live in the Douglas/Sarpy County Learning Community will be eligible to attend, using the professional learning community application. It is open to all eleven surrounding districts.
11. What is the location of the Focus School?
The Leadership through Technology & Communication Focus School is located at Wilson Focus School, 5141 "F" Street. This state of the art building is positioned in a highly accessible location right off the interstate and 60th Street exit.
12. Will transportation be provided?
Transportation is provided for anyone who lives within the Omaha Public Schools district that meets the district requirements for distance limits. Transportation must be provided by the family for those students choosing to attend outside of the Omaha Public school district.
13. How many students will attend the Focus School?
The school has small class sizes with a student-teacher ratio of approximately 20:1. The school is third through sixth grade. We originally added classrooms gradually and built up our number of students while establishing the program. There are currently three sections of third through sixth grade for a total of 240 students.
14. How will the needs of students be addressed?(i.e. Special Education, Gifted, ELL)?
The instructional program will meet the identified needs of all students. The school provides support and enrichment services to address students’ instructional needs. Data is used to plan for instruction to individual needs. Wilson Focus School has a Reading Interventionist and students participate in WIN (What I Need) small groups targeted to their individual needs. The school has been found to be extremely successful for students of all backgrounds and needs. There is a resource program and gifted and talented program. Services for students with IEP's, are provided resource support. ELL learners are provided classes that support their English language acquisition.
15. How do students enroll in the Focus School?
The application is available on the website. The deadline If more students apply than can be placed in the Focus School, students are chosen randomly through a lottery. Students not accepted can be left on a waiting list, but need to reapply each calendar year. Siblings of current students are given priority status.
16. Do students who are accepted for the Focus School have to apply each year to remain in the program?
No. Once a student is assigned to the focus school they may continue through the entire Focus School pathway or return to their home middle school after 6th grade. Once a student completes elementary at Wilson Focus they may choose to move into the focus program at the next level. The current pathway is to Lewis and Clark Middle School for 7th and 8th grades and the pathway continues with a focus program at Burke High School.
17. What is the deadline for application?
The deadline for applications for 2022-23 school year is March 3, 2023. Please watch the website for more details. Applications are taken anytime, but dependent upon space available.