Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully is considering a massive reorganization for Haverhill High School.
He told School Committee members he has begun meeting with high school administrators to discuss academic and physical changes that would create smaller "schools" within the building and mean shuffling classroom layouts.
So far, the discussions are leaning toward creating "schools within the school," which could focus students into educational tracks such as liberal arts, science, or vocational skills — akin to the setup at Lawrence High School.
Scully argues that by doing so, students could eventually find their own place at Haverhill High and, more importantly, resist the urge to drop out or transfer.
"(Haverhill High School has) got to be the flagship (school) for students," he said. "We want students to want to come to Haverhill High."
Scully said reorganizing the wings of the school could similarly solve navigation issues for visitors and guest as well as for students.
"I have parent after parent tell me they can't find their way around Haverhill High School," he said.
Dividing the school into different wings would also help Scully tackle his mission of increasing safety in all schools. He said staff in each wing could learn individual students, making it easier to keep out those who don't belong.
He stressed that these are nothing more than ideas at the moment, but said he could have a formal recommendation in time for budget talks in the spring.
Currently, the only separate academic program in the high school is the Classical Academy, which places academically advanced freshmen into honors and Advanced Placement classes while also requiring them to take part in exclusive courses like Latin language classes.
Marc Harvey, a history teacher at Haverhill High School, said he'd support such a change to the high school. He said the benefit of getting to know a group of students better is welcome.
"You'd get to know your students on an individual basis," he said. "With 1,800 kids you don't always know their names."
Harvey said teachers within a "pod" could benefit through shared curriculum and preparation periods.
School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti said the idea could allow Haverhill High to resurrect some vocational programs, allowing the city to meet the needs of students who want that kind of education but don't win admission to Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.
"We have to fill that void," he said. "We have a duty to our children."
Magliocchetti said radically different schools and academic tracks could potentially cater to the diverse populations at the high school.