Open House changes benefit students, parents and teachers

Sarah Young

Sketching intently, advanced art students spent the time making art and showcasing their work from this year.

In the past, Redwood’s annual Open House was an opportunity for students to showcase their work and for parents

to experience the everyday life of their child. This year, however, Open House changed to include eighth grade families as well as a new schedule similar to the course workshops current students had access to in January. According to Ella Zimmerman, a current junior and Site Council Representative for the class of 2021, the changes were established to make Open House more beneficial for both current and future students.

“The main concern people had [in the past] was that there wasn’t a real purpose to Open House, and if there was, we were not achieving it,” Zimmerman said. 

One of the biggest challenges with Open House in past years has been parents not using the time appropriately, according to Assistant Principal and Site Council Representative LaSandra White.

“In some classrooms you would see lines of parents lined up to talk to teachers about their kid. You can do that anytime, and it’s not really a confidential setting to have a parent-teacher conference. We are trying to move away from that,” White said.

Raising money for leadership events, bake sales were held along the hallways at Open House.

In an email sent to the Redwood community on Jan. 8, 2020 by Principal David Sondheim, the goals for the redesigned Open House were to “build the Redwood community, welcome incoming families, showcase Redwood resources and programs, and increase student and parent awareness of academic and elective opportunities prior to next year’s course scheduling.” To meet these objectives, the night was restructured to include five blocks of time that allow both parents and students to learn more about classes in a presentation format and then ask general follow-up questions.

Amy Benjamin, a current math teacher and Site Council Representative, thinks moving away from one-on-one talks with parents will benefit teachers as well as students and parents.

“Hopefully parents will get the information they need, and we won’t be put on the spot about a certain student that should be in a one-on-one meeting,” Benjamin said. “We still leave a lot of time for questions [in sessions].”

Eating burritos from the food truck, parents and students enjoyed a quick dinner.

Additionally, the Open House date has changed compared to past years. Normally scheduled in March, this year it moved to late January. According to White, the date change was intended to help students in their course selection for the following year.

“We placed [Open House] there because we wanted to do it prior to when students are selecting their courses next year, including the eighth graders,” White said. “We also wanted to provide some kind of exposure to the eighth graders because we don’t do student tours anymore.”

Student tours for eighth graders, which most current Redwood students had the opportunity to attend, are no longer offered for a variety of reasons. According to a message on the Redwood home page, “[Redwood’s] increasing enrollment has meant more frequent disruptions to classes, students and school staff. It has also created more challenges organizing the tours. Additionally, middle school students are missing class time to attend the tours when they should be in class.” 

Although incoming freshmen will not have the opportunity to experience Redwood through tours, Zimmerman is hoping to organize other ways outside of Open House to further middle school students’ exposure to Redwood.

Lining up, eighth grade parents bought Redwood apparel at the end of the night.

“We are thinking about doing a virtual reality walkthrough experience and maybe getting Redwood TV involved. We have brought that up to try to get eighth graders here to see our school, as well as using Open House as a way to weave them into that,” Zimmerman said.

Ross School eighth grader Charlotte Fishburne enjoyed the opportunity to come to Open House and see a glimpse of her next four years at Redwood.

“I think tonight helped because it introduced me to Redwood and now I feel more comfortable coming here next year,” Fishburne said. “I liked hearing about what the next years will be like.”