At Dover High, lockers and textbooks are obsolete
For decades, the common morning routine for most high school students included hitting the snooze button, running down the street to avoid missing the bus and putting belongings in their locker before homeroom.
At Dover Area High School, a third of that equation appears to be on its way out.
Student use of lockers has dwindled since Dover Area School District implemented a device for every student — often called a one-to-one program — at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, as well as allowing students to carry book bags to class.
“We simply said, ‘If any student would like a locker, please go to the main office,’” said Dover Area High School Principal Jared Wastler.
Out of 1,036 students attending the school, only 52 registered for a locker under the new policy, according to Wastler.
“That’s not to say they’re actually using them,” Wastler said.
Most of the registrations were made by ninth-graders, some of whom may have already abandoned the lockers as the rest of the student body has done.
Online curriculum: According to Wastler, students at Dover High bring just a few possessions to class: a binder, their district-provided iPad and possibly, in colder weather, a jacket that can be placed behind their classroom chair.
"Sadly, in the winter season, there are some students that aren’t even wearing a winter coat," he added.
Some students enrolled in AP classes might bring a textbook or two, but most classes assign study material through online courses accessed through district-issued tablets, which Wastler said is changing education for the better.
“For a long time, curriculum was written with the concept that your textbook was the center of your curriculum,” he said. Teachers developed courses through textbooks, and students pored through them, Wastler said, limiting the knowledge of a certain subject to the textbook.
With the onslaught of the ever-present internet, however, students can learn the cutting edge of a given subject through constantly updated online curriculum and collaborate in convenient ways using class software.
Matthew Spahr, a chemistry teacher at Dover Area High School, said the changes, while not natural for him, are customary for today's students.
"In terms of reading, I've always liked reading books and highlighting parts of it," he said.
"Kids today don’t need textbooks," Spahr said. "They weren’t brought up that way."
Locker-less school? One question looming before the district is what role lockers will play, if any, in a potential high school building project.
In July, Dover school board members voted to move forward on the design phase of a yet-to-be-decided building project.
The option selected by board members would build a new high school on the grounds of Dover Intermediate School and renovate the existing high school to serve intermediate students.
Three committees were developed in response to the building project: an educational programming committee of administrators and teachers, a core administrative planning committee and a steering committee with parents and students.
Wastler, a member of all three committees, said stakeholders in the project have discussed the idea of dramatically reducing lockers at the potential new school.
"We have not come to any definite answer at this point," he said, but "it is doubtful that we will have a thousand lockers at the school."
Dover school board President Nathan Eifert said board members and administrators have toured other schools in the midstate built in the last five to ten years to see what other schools have done right in designing new school buildings.
"Lockers were not lining the hallways like a typical high school," he said of some of the schools, adding lockers were scattered to help with student flow between classes.
Eifert said committee members are looking at creating a modular facility with "flexible, movable walls," and minimal cabinetry to enable seamless transitions.
Spahr, a member of the programming and steering committees for the building project, said students have suggested creating a designated section in classrooms where they can leave bulky belongings, such as athletic supplies and musical instruments.
"A lot of this is still up for debate," he said, but things are certainly changing at Dover Area High School.
These futuristic-sounding classrooms, it seems, are part of the 21st-century approach to educating students.
Editor's note: This article was updated to include remarks from Dover school board President Nathan Eifert.