MAYVILLE - The transition of Ripley students joining Chautauqua Lake students is exceeding expectations.
At the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education meeting recently, school officials presented an analysis of the transition for Ripley students grades 7-12 who are completing their first year of enrollment at Chautauqua Lake.
Josh Liddell, Chautauqua Lake secondary school principal, and Lauren Ormsby, Ripley superintendent, outlined the transition by explaining a series of survey questions that both Ripley and Chautauqua Lake students recently answered.
According to Liddell, there was a 95-96 percent student participation rate for the survey.
When gauging the difficulty of academic courses for the 2012-13 year, 81 percent of Ripley students rated the difficulty at 6 out of 10 or below, considering their coursework at that time as being average in difficulty.
This year, 87 percent of Ripley students ranked the difficulty as being average or above average in difficulty.
According to Ormsby, the increase in difficulty is a positive for Ripley students, as they now have opportunities that were not available previously.
"Ripley students can now take AP courses, elective courses and college courses," she said.
Ormsby suggested that the two main differences for Ripley students entering into Chautauqua Lake are the academic rigor and homework expectations.
Both Liddell and Ormsby felt that over time, the students would be more comfortable with the new expectations.
"The students asked to have some time to get used to the curriculum," Liddell said.
According to the survey, 89 percent of Ripley students are currently involved with some extra-curricular activity - only 20 students are not.
"16 of these activities are brand new to Ripley students," Ormsby said, citing modified soccer and volleyball as examples.
Chautauqua Lake Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer said that while Chautauqua Lake students have been swimming since elementary school, this is the first year that a pool has been available to Ripley students.
"I want to compliment (Ormsby) and Ripley for providing transportation," Spitzer said, noting the coordination that went into a creating the busing schedule.
Ormsby explained that she did not want transportation to be an inhibiting factor for after-school participation.
According to the survey participants, the school's dance and fun night, as well as the grade level "Shadow Day," have helped the transition process most.
"These were the two events that we focused on most for this year," Liddell said.
Eighty-two percent of students from both Ripley and Chautauqua Lake felt that the merger expanded their friend groups, with 18 percent of students feeling their friend groups remained the same size.
When asked if combining schools was a positive and successful experience, 65 percent of students from both schools answered that they agreed or strongly agreed.
"Nine percent of students strongly disagreed - but this could be a group of students who strongly disliked school anyway," Liddell said.
Liddell's overall goal for the Ripley transition was to have the student body meet a 92 percent passing rate.
"We have a 92 percent passing rate for the third quarter," Liddell said, explaining that the percentage should increase 1 or 2 percent by the fourth quarter.
The overall graduation rate, while currently undetermined, is estimated at 90-95 percent, according to Liddell. The goal was to surpass an 85 percent graduation rate.
A report of the disciplinary cases for the 2013-14 school year shows a decrease in nearly every category.
"We will (lower the discipline rates) more than that, but the true test will be to see if we can continue that," Liddell said.
A free response portion of the survey suggested that students feel the best part of combining schools is the new friendships, diversity and opportunities that they have.
One recurring suggestion for the transition process was to introduce students from merging schools to each other as early as possible.
"All the indicators are that things are going pretty good," Spitzer said.
To conclude the discussion, Liddell showed a video made by students which showed the transition process through photographs.