DHS undergoes rebranding

Aug. 22—DANVILLE — As construction on the 1972 addition at Danville High School continues, the school also is seeing new murals and signage throughout its hallowed hallways.

"We've done a lot of work with trying to rebrand the building. The last step is we've got a lot of large branded directional signage coming," said new principal Jacob Bretz.

There are large murals with DHS's Viking mascot on them.

There are also about 50 new signs, which has taken longer to get than expected.

"We're excited, hopefully maybe by the end of (this week), I'm hoping we'll start seeing some of that go up," Bretz said.

The signs have room numbers, teacher names and highest level of education listed outside their classrooms, elevator and other signage.

Signage in English and Spanish to try to help visitors who might not speak English as a first language. The signs are aimed to make the Hispanic population and visitors more welcome.

"It's a complicated building to get around. It's a big building," Bretz said.

DHS officials also did a lot of collaboration with the school resource officer on renumbering the classrooms, and the proper way to have it make sense for someone coming into the building and if there ever was an emergency.

Bretz said it's been a bit of a struggle for the students because they haven't gotten all the signs up yet. Hopefully the signage will be up in the next couple of weeks.

He said the adjustment for students all arriving at the same time in the morning, instead of some for early bird classes which had been offered in the past and then regular classes, is working out with changes being made as needed.

The students have to go through metal detectors and get their IDs scanned.

Bretz said they have a better set up for students who set the detector off, such as for a binder, moving them to a separate table and not to halt the line. The ID scan also has been moved further up the entrance ramp inside the building.

Bretz had wondered whether they'd have to start experimenting with students coming into the circle drive entrance too, but the mornings had been operating better and better.

"It's still a work in progress," Bretz said.

The tardy grace period for students is over as of this week.

DHS is lacking science teachers, with teachers currently taking on larger class sizes than the school traditionally would like to see, so they could offer botany and anatomy again and conceptual physics and AP physics. The class sizes are not unreasonable, but are larger than they'd like, Bretz said.

DHS also is a little low on English teachers this year. Those teachers also are carrying larger class sizes to offer all the classes the school would like to offer, he said.

"The teachers are really doing their best," Bretz said. "I have to commend them."

All teachers are in the new science labs except for a couple, with the construction going on at DHS. The newly-renovated library also is still a few weeks away from being open.

"It's going to be incredible," Bretz said of the library which also will include a green screen room, podcast, eSports and study rooms, and lounge areas.

Another adjustment for students this year has included three lunch periods instead of four.

Bretz said it wasn't the best use of their supervision resources when the cafeteria wasn't full for four lunches, and the new schedule takes one less homeroom out of play too, to discourage loitering and avoid students not going to homeroom.

"It's definitely more crowded than it has been," Bretz said of the cafeteria at lunches. "It's bustling down there. But the kids are doing a nice job. We're by no means at capacity down there. We're making it work."

Bretz said his two top goals at DHS are addressing chronic absenteeism and the graduation rate.

"The main thing is absenteeism and reducing the number of chronically absent students," he said.

DHS has had about 49 percent chronically absent who miss 10 percent or more of school days per year either with or without a valid excuse, according to the Illinois Report Card for DHS.

He also wants to improve DHS's graduation rate. It's been about 68 percent.

"There's a lot of opinions and strategies in terms of raising academic achievement, but still the No. 1 impact on kids learning is being in class with a teacher in front of them," Bretz said. "Improving absenteeism is the main lever that will unlock and start to show improvement."

He said they have to get more kids to school on a regular basis.

His administration team helping out includes Associate Principal DeMarko Wright and two new assistant principals at DHS this year, Elizabeth Cosat and Betsy Porter, in addition to Assistant Principal Scot Vogel.

Bretz said he's been really blessed that the administrative team is like him, they're all people who wouldn't want to be anywhere else either. Nobody's looking for the next job. They're committed to being there for the long term.

"That's a special dynamic to have in a team," he said.