Wheeling Central Celebrates 150 Years by Embracing Technology
This year Central Catholic High School in Ohio County is celebrating roots that stretch 150 years back. The school has weathered many changes since the end of the Civil War. Student populations have swelled and declined along with the population of the Northern Panhandle. Today the school is looking to the future. Alums and foundations have made investments in new technologically infused learning environments, changing the shape of classrooms, and school officials hope, students’ minds.
Central Catholic High School in east Wheeling looks like many schools do from the outside: classic brick and mortar. But the infrastructure is undergoing major renovations and that, school principal Becky Sancomb says, is turning the school inside out.
“We want to provide an environment in which we can bring the outside world in,” Sancomb said.
Principal Sancomb started in 2012, and her vision of bringing the outside in is pretty literal.
Knee Surgery in a TEAL Lab
I stepped into Wilma Beaver’s anatomy class which was observing a live knee-replacement surgery in the Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) lab.
About 25 students sat along long tables that broke them into groups of 5 (each table butted up against the wall where a larger monitor hung). But during the anatomy class everyone was facing the end of the long room where a large screen displayed a scene in an operating room.
Senior Nicole Lewis described how it felt to watch the doctor saw off the kneecap of the patient as the doctor described what he was doing, the tools he was using, and the people around who helped the throughout surgery. Nicole explained that during the surgery they could ask questions through Twitter.
“I don’t think I could [be a surgeon], but I think it’s pretty interesting to watch,” Lewis said.
The lab was inspired by those developed in the early 2000s at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“The TEAL lab today is I guess what you want to call fully operational,” said Deb Warmuth the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Central Catholic. “The TEAL lab today is a great collaborative learning space for students.”
A TEAL Initiative
School leaders say they knew that it would take more than a good lab to really move past the 1950-style classrooms that were in place, so the TEAL lab grew into the school’s TEAL initiative. All-new wiring, wifi access in each classroom, and bandwidth to support everyone on their individual wireless devices are among the infrastructural changes to support the initiative.
The school's president, Larry Bandi explains that the school is now able to embrace new worlds of curriculum, with all the online, software and hardware components that exist today from 3-D printers to architectural designing and rendering software, to a new robotics lab.
“I put together a needs assessment of what it was going to take to put us in a position to have all of this renovation work and technology brought into the school,” Bandi said.
The TEAL lab itself had a $400,000 price tag. Renovating the rest of the school required a lot more money. Quietly campaigning with alum and area foundations Bandi has managed to raise almost an additional $2 million. About 30 classrooms have all needed to be rewired and renovated (at $32,000 each).
“It’s not just about technology,” Bandi said, “it’s about tools that allow us to mold critical thinkers.”
Today there are about 270 students at the school. Bandi says it costs $9,600/year to educate each student. Endowments and parish support reduces the cost of tuition which next year is calculated to be $6,110. School officials report that about 41 percent of students receive some sort of additional financial aid.
Bandi is hoping to procure an additional 1.4 million to complete renovations.