From One Border to the Other

Any of you interested on reading about my new school? We had an English assignment to write an essay comparing two things so I compared Minot High School with my new school, William Howard Taft High.

Adjusting from one high school to another can bring many challenges because of the many differences. Moving to San Antonio, Texas, from Minot, North Dakota, has introduced many new experiences to my life, and although adjusting to living just a few miles from the border of Canada to that of Mexico can be difficult, not everything is so foreign. Overlooking my past school, Minot High School, and my new exposure, William Howard Taft High School, many similarities and differences come to view.

Comparing Minot High School, located in the quaint town of Minot near an Air Force base with the same name in North Dakota, it seems quite different from William H. Taft, which rests in the busy city of San Antonio, located in southern Texas. The town of Minot has been gifted the nickname the “Magic City” due to its sharp growth in the railroad ages, “magically” appearing overnight after the railroad tracks were laid down. Minot High School honors this tradition with its mascot, the maroon and gold magi, or magician, paired with bunny cheerleaders frolicking with rabbit ears upon their heads, mimicking the famous “rabbit-out-of-a-hat” magic trick. One of Minot High School’s buildings, the upper classmen campus, also shares the town’s nickname, “Magic City.” Although no interesting story supports Taft High School, students cheer for the red and white Raiders, matching with the school’s Presidential name. With the nearby military base having to rely on Minot High for education, military families have no other choice but to send their kids to Minot, causing a large military influence to reside within the school. Military decorations adorn the hallways, including a collection of flags for each active-duty personnel that flutters along the lower classmen campus entrance, and military families enjoy certain privileges and exceptions. Because students constantly transfer in and out of Minot High due to the Air Force, many races pass through Minot with no primary dominance. With Taft being so close to the Mexican border, however, the Hispanic race is more commonly seen and the military is not so commonly known because the nearby Air Force bases come equipped with their own high schools. From the Canadian border to the Mexican, the differences add up along with the miles in between the two.

The main difference between these two high schools is the physical arrangement. Minot High is split into two different campuses, each on different sides of the town. Resting in the heart of downtown Minot, Central Campus, houses ninth and tenth grade while across town, Magic City Campus educates eleventh and twelfth grade students. Although shielded under the same school name, each campus has its own rules, regulations, activities, and staff. With such a confusing double-campus set-up, Minot strives to stay as organized as possible even to the extent of giving away free planners, schedules, calendars, and activity lists to its students. This organization does not compare to the single building which houses all grades at Taft High School, however. Within the buildings, students attending Taft walk across aged tile and pass red and white painted walls in a simple, confined floor plan, while those at Minot walk within spacious hallways along carpeted floors passing by interesting design features including maroon and gold pillars that hold up many high ceilings with sun roofs embedded within.

At Minot the school year starts later than at Taft and releases earlier in the year, but students at Minot do not receive a Spring Break and also do not enjoy as many days off for holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Throughout the school year, Taft is broken into six six-week long cycles, while Minot is split into four nine-week quarters. School begins at 7:50 in Minot while Taft students have an extra hour to rest, beginning their classes at 8:50. Although both schools have seven classes, Taft has eight “periods” allowing students a full forty-seven-minute period for lunch and Minot students have about 30 minutes for lunch scheduled somewhere around their fifth “hour” classes, having seven forty-minute “hours” total. Within classes, both schools’ students relocate from class to class spread amongst three floors. Those at Minot only need five minutes for passing time as all classrooms remain indoors in a neatly organized floor plan. With some of Taft’s classrooms located outdoors in portable buildings and students coming from the sister school, Communication Arts, students have six minutes to travel from building to building. To inform its pupils that passing time is about to end, Taft gives a series of bells, causing students to rush to their classes with just a few minutes left. A series of bells at Minot, however, alarms students that passing time is over and they have become tardy. At Minot one long tone bell rings to announce that class will end in a few minutes while the same bell announces that class has begun at Taft.

Within the classrooms, those at Minot enjoy the special benefits they receive from the large funds they receive for being the only school to educate, not only the town, but also the Air Force base. Taft High School receives a partial fund from the city of San Antonio and must charge its students for benefits they would receive at Minot for free. Because of the constant flow of money that Minot collects, small fees exist allowing them to offer free Summer School, when Taft students face a $200.00 Summer School entrance fee. Taft High also charges a $250.00 fee for band when the only band charges found at Minot are for renting an instrument. Lunches also reflect the economic status of each school with a $1.75 price tag at Minot compared to the $2.00 one at Taft. Not only do students at Minot evade extra fees, but they also take pleasure in nicer materials. Resting in more comfortable desks than those at Taft, students gaze upon the SmartBoards that hang in every classroom with matching projectors mounted on the ceiling. These electronics connect to Apple computers to create a more interactive learning environment for students and easier lesson plans for teachers. Students also receive newer textbooks in better condition than ones students receive at Taft, if they receive them at all. At Taft, supplies often run short and a “Book Room” with limited hours and a clueless staff, assigns books to students rather than the teachers assigning them themselves. Because of the lack of supplies, art teachers must buy materials themselves, and other teachers cannot assign homework because all of their students do not have the proper textbook. Not only is there a lack of materials at Taft High School, but also the quality is much lower with pages of textbooks falling from the seams when the students first receive them. Funding certainly helps a school become better prepared to educate and Minot benefits from having such a wealthy share.

Strong national standards within our country require both schools to teach the same curriculum to its students, and both, Taft and Minot High, follow these rules with few differences. Not as important in Minot, social studies doesn’t apply to all grades while students must pass a Drivers Education and a swimming class. Taft does not provide such classes and therefore does not require them for graduation. Taft does offer a gym class, but does not give it as much value as Minot, which requires students to choose from an expansive list of gym courses. Within both districts, students may take Advanced Placements classes if they wish for more of a challenge. Both Taft and Minot encourage students to take PSAT tests, but those in Minot must sign up for them themselves on a weekend of after school and pay a fee while students at Taft automatically take the PSATs for free during regular school hours. Taft students also partake in TAKS tests and benchmarks while North Dakota does not issue statewide tests to its students. Overall, Minot gives more custom classes while Taft sticks to the Texas curriculum.

With its custom classes created to fit each student’s needs, Minot wishes for its students to become as successful as possible with as few restrictions as needed. At least an hour before school begins each day, with the exception of Monday, every teacher must occupy his or her classroom to help students who decide to come in early. Failing students or those who have work to make up must come to these “before-school help sessions” until they bring their grades up to a passing level and finish all their assignments. Designated to help students even further, people can find many open resource areas including free computer labs, libraries, help centers, and other areas scattered around both the lower and upperclassmen campuses of Minot. Always open during school hours, including at least an hour before and after school, these resource areas insure that students receive all the help they need. With all this extra help available, students at Minot need to mantain a 92% to achieve an “A” while a 90% is an “A” on a Taft report card. Each school has the advantage of granting students the option of checking their grades on-line, and both districts have created school websites for extra resource. Both schools have organized clubs for students to join, but Minot offers a greater diversity including an art club, a writing club called Magic Pens (keeping with the magical theme,) and a drama club called PlayMakers. While Taft students have the option of joining an extra-curricular club, there aren’t as many to choose from. With such a busy schedule, Minot tries to keep its students relaxed and stress-fear by requiring most to have an “off-hour” three days a week. Students can use this 40-minute period to leave the campus, visit the cafeteria for a meal, work on homework, use a resource area, visit with a teacher, make up an assignment, or for any other school-appropriate activity. Students are also granted with the privilege to use electronics such as MP3 devices and cell-phones in designated areas such as the commons, cafeteria, and locker bays at any times. Locker bays are areas in which every single student’s locker resides in one convenient area preventing hallways from congesting and allowing friends to meet in one location. More convenient and larger, these lockers include more shelving and hooks than the scattered lockers found at Taft. Within Taft’s walls students must turn off and put away all electronic equipment at all times of the day, unlike those in the North.

Minot pays extreme attention to health and not only requires gym class to each grade but also creates a restricted lunch menu with specific rules. Minot does not serve “unhealthy” foods including pizza, soda, french fries, and potato chips. Taft not only supplies these foods but also does not enforce physical education as strongly as Minot. Although Minot cares more about its students’ health, Taft has it beat with a nurse’s office. Minot schools do not have nurse’s offices and do not allow students to go home when feeling ill.

Each school has its special memories such as Prom and Homecoming and fights for school spirit with its other school opponents, but Minot grants extra attention to these events. While releasing early for pep rallies and for special Homecoming Coronations, Taft students never enjoy an early dismissal. Also in Minot, a large majority of the student body decks out on any day specified as a “dress-up day.” Mimes can be seen walking around school on “Black and White Day,” with floaties and beach balls being thrown around the halls on “Beach Day,” and maroon and gold beads given out to every student on “Maroon and Gold Day.” Students at Minot never miss out on a fun school event while Taft students do not become as involved. Most students at Minot know the single, fast school song, written by a previous Minot High graduate, but few at Taft know either of its two slower school songs. School spirit runs so strongly through Minot that the school even gives out free maroon and gold items including beaded necklaces, T-shirts, stickers, posters, and other school-proud items to share pride with the students and the rest of the town.

When the school day comes to an end and students return home, both schools offer buses; although in Minot, the bus system differs greatly from those in other schools. Since the Air Force base rests so far from the small town of Minot, which doesn’t collect as much traffic as San Antonio, only those traveling to the air base may ride a bus. Only four buses arrive at the school each day. The buses always come in the same order and arrive in the same location making it easy for Minot students. Any student can ride a bus at Taft, but they come in a more hectic manner. Many buses parade in front of students at Taft as they carefully watch for the one number they seek. The numbers never arrive in order and the buses constantly move to different locations, matching the busy hustle of the city. With the spacious, rural surroundings of Minot compared to San Antonio’s compact traffic-filled layout, it takes about the same amount of time to come home from school, roughly thirty minutes after leaving, but with Taft’s strange bus schedule, this adds another thirty minutes before the buses even leave.

When comparing the two schools that I have attended side-by-side, I find it difficult for me to choose which of the two I like better. Each school has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each school has something that’s better than the other. While Minot seems to have many more advantages than Taft, the quality of those advantages have an effect. I am glad to avoid the required swimming class in Minot by coming to Taft and am relieved to only need a 90% to achieve an “A.” I am also more satisfied with the way lunch and certain classes run in Taft High School. Overall they both balance out to be fine schools and I cannot officially choose which one I enjoy more. Either way I’m proud to call myself a Minot Magi and a Taft Raider.