Freshmen Academies coming to Burke in fall


Starting in the fall of 2021, Burke will bring a new opportunity for freshman students who will be divided into “academies” to help with their transition to high school.

In the information presented on the Burke website, there is a visual representation of the freshman academies and the proposed three pathways that would be dedicated fields of study that would be specific to Burke. The pathways are still pending board approval and will tentatively be voted on sometime in the fall.

In those diagrams, the Burke website illustrates the The Academy Model,” a diagram that represents the three advantages that the district hopes will benefit the in-coming Bulldogs. 

The first advantage introduced is,Every student has a team of teachers working for them every day.” With this information, teachers work with each of their students to achieve as they build a collaborative and welcoming atmosphere with English, Social Studies, Math, and Science classes. 

Secondly, they state, “Every student can feel engaged.” Academies are built on engaging students with classes that are focused on the career path they plan to pursue outside of high school. 

Lastly, the website says,Every student will feel prepared for the future.” Academies work around students’ plans for the future, whether that’s going to a four-year college, trade school, military, or an apprenticeship.  

As the process of planning the strategies of the Burke Academies began, the district researched the different programs high schools hold across the nation. 

An email from Brenda Blevins, Supervisor of External Relations, gave insight on what the academies will be doing at Burke and across the different OPS high schools. 

“Omaha Public Schools looked at school districts across the country that offer similar programming for high school students. Additionally, our district has experience with academy programming already including the programs offered through the Burke Air and Space Academy and the academies of Benson and Bryan High Schools,” the email said. 

The Burke Academies were built in line with the district’s Strategic Plan of Action, in which OPS looked at preparing students for their future. One part of this plan is creating the “Portrait of a Graduate.” 

“The Portrait of a Graduate outlines the skills essential for students beyond high school to be successful in college, career and life. When our district reviewed our portfolio of program options, the goal was to ensure that students could explore career interests while learning these foundational skills,” the email said. 

The members of the Strategic Plan of Action and OPS Board received input from different local business leaders who discussed significant skills students need to have for jobs and future job trends. 

“These steps helped guide the development of the proposed Omaha Public Schools College & Career Academies and Pathways,” the email said.  

The district’s evaluation of the high demand career fields and programs that are offered at Burke led to the three pathways: Air & Space, Communications and Leadership. 

The email also said, “Burke’s Air and Space Academy includes programming in flight, aircraft mechanics and aerospace engineering. The Leadership Academy includes management, financial planning and insurance, data analytics, teaching as a profession and marketing. The Communications Academy includes web and digital design, audio video production and journalism.” 

Although this is not yet set in stone, if it is approved students will be guided to select a pathway that interests them in hopes that they continue with it into the future.

“Pending Board of Education approval of the academies and pathways plan, students would select an academy or a pathway at their school during the spring semester of their freshman year. Students would continue to take their core classes along with career-focused classes and electives. A freshman seminar course will help students learn about a wide range of career options available,” the email said. 

The OPS Board has since approved the academies for freshman who come to Burke in the fall of 2021.

“Because the Freshman Academy is the only item being implemented in the fall 2021, there will be no changes for current students,” the email said. 

Current students will continue taking courses currently offered at Burke. 

“As part of the proposed plan, school counselors would be available to talk with students who feel the need to change their academy or pathway. They would help students determine their best options, the email stated. The proposed plan allows students to change their academy pathway one time. Because the plan is designed for students to earn the Portrait of a Graduate skills that are transferable from one career to another, students won’t necessarily need to change their academy or pathway to be successful. 

Although Burke students will be experiencing the changes of the academies in the fall of 2021, the culture around the school is not expected to change. 

Omaha Public Schools believes in a culture of student support and a positive school climate,” the email said. The proposed Omaha Public Schools College & Career Academies and Pathways comes after an evaluation and refocus of current programming. It builds on what has been working well and where we can grow. It ensures students gain real-world career experience while maintaining the foundation of core classes and access to advanced academics, fine arts and electives. Because district staff worked with principals and school leaders to identify proposed academies and pathways, they know and understand the culture of the building.