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If you stumble onto the campus of Sage Hill School at 10:30 a.m. on any given weekday, it might feel like you just set foot in a ghost town. There are no students playing basketball on the sparkling new outdoor courts, no teachers hustling back to class with freshly made copies. In fact, there are no classes going on at all. Everyone in this tiny community (which will eventually grow to between 500 and 600 students) is inside one room, where a town meeting is taking place. These daily gatherings are just one aspect of Sage Hill that sets it apart from other high schools.
The manicured campus, set atop a hill in posh Newport Beach, California, drew immediate attention as a "tech high school" when it opened in September 2000. The school's financial backers include former AOL executive Stephen Johnson and Buy.com founder Scott Blum, who would like to see business classes added to the school's traditional college prep curriculum.
Critics have argued that if Johnson and Blum get their way, the school could become nothing more than a high-tech training ground. "The curriculum is a balance between the traditional and the technological," says Clint Wilkins, Head of School at Orange County's first private, nonprofit, nondenominational high school. "But we do have opportunities to meet technological needs that other schools can't."
The wired campus features computer ports in the hallways, classrooms with "smart boards" that allow teachers to project computer screens to their classes while using their fingers as cursors and plans for a large college-style lecture hall with multimedia capabilities.
"All our teachers are comfortable using technology," says Wilkins. "We integrate technology into the classroom, but we also try to integrate the arts into technology."
With the increasing demand for well-trained high-tech employees, schools like Sage Hill may be a precursor to entrepreneurial high schools around the country.