At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, major changes went into effect at Alta Vista High School (AVHS), the alternative high school in the Mountain View Los Altos (MVLA) school district for students who benefit from a smaller, more personal learning environment. These changes included the addition of a full class of 20 freshmen students, as well as an elongated bell schedule to provide students at AVHS with an experience more similar to that of the nearby traditional high schools Los Altos High School (LAHS) and Mountain View High School (MVHS).
“AVHS has been recognized several times as a top alternative high school in California,” MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves said. “[Recently], the staff [at AVHS] has been looking at how they can build on their successes with even more students.”
Groves’ explanation for the MVLA school board’s decision to take on the new freshmen class consists mainly of the school’s desire to provide an alternate transition into high school for struggling freshmen.
“We, as a district, saw that many students were not successful in a large 1900 student comprehensive high school,” Groves said. “Many of our ninth grade students needed a smaller, caring, more hands-on environment to be successful. We now work with those students [at AVHS], and the early results are that it has been a success.”
In addition, the bell schedule at AVHS was lengthened for a total of one hour and 50 minutes to mimic the environment of a traditional high school and facilitate a smoother transition when AVHS freshmen transfer to either LAHS or MVHS.
“[The elongated schedule] aligns with the rest of the schools and this means that the students are getting more education than they would have before because there’s a [longer] time frame,” AVHS construction teacher Greg Ely said. “It’s a little hard for them to adjust when they were getting out at 1:30 p.m. [at AVHS] and now all of a sudden they have to do 8:10 a.m. to 2:30 or3:30 p.m.”
Furthermore, the longer schedule allows students to complete their credits quickly.
“Now that there’s a longer schedule students can take more classes and build up those [credits] faster,” Ely said. Even if you simply had a hard time getting school work done, [AVHS] gives you a second chance to fix stuff that you didn’t do [at LAHS or MVHS].”
Ely believes that the alternate high school experience increases AVHS students’ potential to graduate from a traditional high school and receive their diploma from either LAHS or MVHS.
“[Everybody] thinks [AVHS] is the bad school, where all the bad kids go—[this is] not necessarily [true],” Ely said. “There’s a bunch of kids who are just shy, or just don’t get along with other people, or it’s overwhelming [for them at LAHS or MVHS]. There could be problems at home [or] somewhere else. Some of the kids are in foster care. They just don’t work well or they get distracted at a comprehensive high school, so they need a smaller environment. [AVHS] is a smaller environment, where it’s tighter, it’s a little bit more controlled. [AVHS] gives more kids an opportunity to try to get their diploma.”