High School South Students Maintain Their SPEAR-IT Remotely

May 8, 2020-- Students in High School South’s Project SPEAR-IT program are not missing the opportunity to enhance their learning despite school closures and the absence of in-person instruction.

The project-- a pre-apprenticeship program for freshmen and sophomores who may be interested in pursuing vocational and technical careers-- is funded through a grant from the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Lead teacher Tim O’Leary has transitioned the program to a virtual model, which has managed to sustain the momentum Project SPEAR-IT was experiencing before schools were shut down.

The distance learning model includes how-to instructional videos and Google Meet discussions. For the former, students were recently assigned a shed-making lesson. Through the program, the school is scheduled to purchase a shed kit to store the necessary wood and materials, but such projects are led by the students, who have been tasked with building the shed.

“I provided the students a YouTube video on how to build a shed and some of the challenges that may come about,” said O’Leary, “and followed up with a series of questions for them to answer. When we return to school, they’ll be prepared and ready to build.”


Student Nashaly Aimarino would agree. She aced her shed-making assignment.

Q 4. What is the problem the installer had with the doors?

A. There weren't enough pins to secure the doors. There was one for the bottom but not at the top.

Q 5.What steps did the installer use to build the floor of the shed and what did he have to buy to build the floor?

A. First the base was put down and sanded, then the pressure treated wood that was 4 by 4 and 2 by 4 went on top of the base. Then he put the sub floor down, and a tool that was needed and bought was a frame nailer.

Project SPEAR-IT targets students who might otherwise be disaffected by traditional classroom settings and subjects, and one of the success measurables for the program is attendance. Prior to school closures, attendance rates were even stronger than expected, and that engagement has transitioned to distance learning. There’s been a 98-percent attendance rate for the program’s virtual classes.

The school has also reported that students are supporting and even mentoring each other remotely during this time. This, school leaders know, is a testament to instruction, and something to be recognized, especially during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“We have received several stories of student-to-student support and mentorship,” said HSS Principal Mike Citta, “and we consider it a great success to have this program led by a teacher in Mr. O’Leary who continues to go above and beyond for his students.”

AJ Pierson

Project SPEAR-IT students like AJ Pierson are continuing their career and technical education remotely.

Tim OLeary

HSS teacher Tim O'Leary speaks with United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties' Christine Jagerburger during a site visit this past fall.