In sports terms, Oak Hills High School's journalism program could have been expected to spend the year rebuilding.
At the end of the 2010-11 school year, students didn't know whether there would even be a student newspaper the next year. The previous journalism teacher wouldn't be teaching the class again, and only three students signed up for the elective.
Two months into the new school year, Oak Hills has printed its first newspaper on newsprint — the sort of paper most American newspapers, including the Hesperia Star, are printed on — and the Paw Print has a staff of 29.
"We're asking for three story ideas for each of these categories from each of you," editor-in-chief Nicole Olney, a senior, told the class. "Sports will be easy, because stuff is going on right now."
Papers titled "Paw Print issue 2" were distributed through the class, with categories including "Front Page," "Campus/Games Page," "Entertainment," "Sports" and "Back Page," along with suggestions about what content might appear on each page. The next issue will be released between the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
"You don't have to bring in a polished idea," journalism teacher Jason Kleber said. "We're going to workshop them."
"Also, it's not just limited to this class," said assistant editor Genelle Watkins, a senior. "Ask your friends what they want to see in the paper."
Olney and her two assistant editors were the three veteran student journalists who had signed up for the class, hoping it would return in the 2011-12 school year.
"Not everybody likes an elective where they write more," said assistant editor Samantha Salazar, a sophomore. "I really wanted to be part of something that would be remembered."
Kleber, who had dreams of becoming a full-time journalist before becoming a teacher, runs the Paw Print as much like a professional newsroom — albeit one that produces four issues a year — as possible.
"The minute I knew we were going to have a good product was when I saw the writing," Kleber said. "We had kids who grasped the news-writing style right away. It's so different than the regular writing that they do."
And like professional journalists, the staff at the Paw Print has heard both praise and criticism from fellow students — among them, football players unhappy that the paper hadn't covered either of the team's first two games. Given the quarterly nature of the paper, the staff decided to focus on sports features instead of trying to cover games that would be weeks old by the time the print edition finally hit the campus.
"Getting the print (edition) back and seeing my name on it," Olney said, "I was so proud."
And, of course, the students are learning the perils of having their names associated with their work for all their peers to see, for better or for worse.
"It's amazing how the kid you sit next to in English never appears to read anything in three years," said Kleber, who also teaches English at Oak Hills, "but he can find all the errors in the school paper."
The current issue of the Paw Print is online at OakHillsBulldogs.com.
Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.