A new chapter for Allen

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A new chapter for Allen

Maya Morriswala and Caroline Tucker

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Change has once again washed over Allen High School. This school year, staff and students — new and returning — walked into AHS  to see a new testing center, discipline center and attendance center along with new tile in the front entrance and an increased security presence. Students and teachers also experienced a new bell schedule and music during passing periods. In the middle of it all was a remodeled, two-story library with ample space to read, study and tutor. Across the street, the freshmen walked into more than just an updated building. They entered a completely new Lowery Freshman Center that had finished construction over the summer.

As usual, Allen has new teachers this year, including Matthew Scanlan, an AP United States History teacher who used to teach at McKinney High School, and has taught the subject for 17 years.

“I came here because I live in Allen,” Scanlan said. “I’ve lived here for almost 12 years now. Somewhere along the way last year, I had the realization that ‘Allen’s home, so why am I not at home?’”

Scanlan’s wife, Karen, also works at AHS, and according to Matthew, working in Allen with his wife allows him to be closer to home and on the same schedule as his family.

“Some people think that my wife being here was a main motivator, but honestly, it wasn’t as much as you would think,” Scanlan said. “[But] it’s been a good change both professionally, but also for family because we are on the same schedule.”

According to Scanlan, adjusting to Allen has been mainly small changes from where he was before. For instance, Scanlan referenced the issue of not knowing which copier is working.

“There is apparently not a special nurse pass, so [I am] looking for something that doesn’t exist,” Scanlan said. “Trying to get everything organized like I want, so it’s just a lot of little things that used to be automatic as far as doing and not thinking anything about [it].

Scanlan said that integrating himself into how things are done in Allen has gone well and that he is excited to be in Allen.

“I just hope to do what I always do,” Scanlan said. “I hope that, number one, they learn a lot, that’s always number one. And I think with that comes a greater appreciation for history than maybe they had [before].”

Along with new staff like Scanlan, the school has added more amenities available to the students such as new privilege areas. The library also provides more for students, according to Jana Dorough, the librarian.

“We will have 10 hardwired computers,” Dorough said. “We do have the charging stations on counters and on our learning stairs, so that’s pretty cool.”

One of the hallmark changes to the library might be the addition of an upstairs section where people can work, as well as give and receive tutoring.

“I think the upstairs library [is] where we can have a really nice, good, quiet place for people to work,” Dorough said. “But upstairs we’re really just now getting started, in the very beginning stages of really implementing Eagle Depot where you can come for tutoring. So not only is it a place you can come and you can do your work by yourself, but if you need help, you need some support, you can go upstairs and there’ll be peer tutors up there to help you.”

According to Dorough, Eagle Tutors and National Honor Society (NHS) students and teachers will offer tutoring in the upstairs library when the upstairs gets completely up and running. In addition to tutoring, there are also nine huddle rooms; four downstairs and five upstairs.

“The huddle rooms [are] for collaborative work and tutoring,” Dorough said. “It’s a nice space, [and] it’s just really nice to have a place to meet. That’s the kind of thing it’s for.”

Dorough said that around this time last year, the library was averaging around 900 people per day. Now, the average day sees about 1250 students, a more than 300 student jump compared to last year.

“I think everybody’s really happy,” Dorough said. “The common thing I’m hearing over and over again is it’s like a college. So I think they feel like this has a more collegiate feel to it and, of course, much more modern than our old furniture and old set up.”

In particular, Dorough said that she was excited about the new furniture, which she thinks is lighter, easier to move and more flexible.

“We can really create different places and spaces,” Dorough said. “Even our shelving, our low shelving, that’s moveable. If we decide we don’t like this setup, we can really make things different and change things up, so we can refresh.”

Along with these changes in the high school, which also include the new senior privilege areas as well as the attendance and discipline centers, a large, modern addition just opened up down the street at the new Lowery Freshman Center.

“The classrooms are bigger, the space is bigger, there are a lot more stairwells,” freshman biology teacher Denise Hollis said. “The students actually have room to move throughout the building.”

But the new freshmen are getting more than just new space. Along with new technology and clean bathrooms, students and teachers are now given the opportunity to work with other classrooms in a joint collaborative area.

“I’ve seen the kids really utilize the collaborative areas outside of their classrooms, and it really is a cool thing,” Hollis said.

Instead of being divided in separate rooms, teachers have the ability to teach and work together with all their students, which provides a more hands-on and active education experience.

“There was always something wrong with the old Lowery, where as now we have all these different things,” Hollis said. “Now, it’s discovering what we can do with the library, the new cafeteria, the two functioning gyms, the collaboration spaces. We’re figuring out how to do life better.”

Although the new Lowery Freshman Center is big and spacious, it will still be a school only for the freshmen, and the sophomores will remain at the main campus.

“I can’t imagine another grade walking in these halls,” Hollis said. “We have room to grow a little bit, but just a little bit.”

The new Lowery Freshman Center is about the size of an average high school, yet it can only hold one grade. This may lead to future aspirations of even creating a new high school in order to fit the growing population of Allen.

“It finally came to point where the community realized that Lowery was way overcrowded, along with that comes safety issues,” Hollis said. “With the growth in Allen, it reached its final straw, we couldn’t continue using Lowery.”

According to Hollis, even though the newness of Lowery makes life better, figuring out how to actually find their way has made this year one of the most stressful ones.

“This year has been more stressful than it has in the past, it’s like moving to a new home: you’re all excited about the newness, the new bedroom, the nice kitchen, all that,” Hollis said. “But, there’s also the unpacking, the new bills, the gas lines, phone lines. Trying to find where the grocery store is, which streets to go down. We moved from one home to another one.”

According to Hollis, the move to the new Lowery is filled with both pros and cons.

“It’s overlooked, we focus on the new building and technology, which is all great, but we have to get trained on this technology, what the flow of the classroom will be like, it’s a lot more thinking,” Hollis said.

The new Lowery has not only made things easier for student transport, but also for the teachers in the classroom.

“I finally feel like I’m not sitting on my students anymore,” Hollis said. “I didn’t realize how small everything was until I got to work in this space. I’d be very sad to go back to my old classroom.”

Along with the new building, freshmen have a new addition in their schedule, a new class called “Connections” that allows freshmen to interact with fellow peers and learn more about their school.

“We get to talk about real issues, we get to go off on tangents, get to talk about this and that,” Hollis said. “It gives them an environment where they get to get things off their chest, ask questions and just talk.”

According to Hollis, the new building and new year is opening many new doors for both students and faculty.

“I like to make things the ‘Mrs. Hollis way,’ and we have been given the freedom to do that,” Hollis said. “Every teacher gets to have their own spin on things, we have that flexibility. I’m not pigeon-holed doing something one way. It’s been good, it’s been good.”

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