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Creative learning model is part of agenda at June 8 forum on Alpine's new high school


By Megan Werland
Alpine resident and member of the 12th HS Design Team

May 29, 2010 (Alpine) -- On June 8th, the GUHSD’s 12th High School Design Team will introduce its curriculum and architectural design to the community of Alpine and Blossom Valley (BV).


People will see innovation that will inspire them and may even make them a little nervous. Because after all, a school of the future will not look like the high school we attended when we were younger. Not to worry, parents!


I have been on a Design Team before (Steele Canyon HS) and I know that in designing a school, educators and parents want to implement innovative ideas that are different and new, ultimately hoping to meet individual students’ needs and maximize their achievement. Based on my involvement with the design of this 12th HS, I can assure Alpine/BV parents that what GUHSD is proposing is not simply the latest untested curriculum approach.


First of all, it is a reflection of a year’s worth of collaboration between the district and the Alpine/BV community. Second, it is an adoption of a proven small school model called the Big Picture. There are Big Picture schools all over the US, including the Met in the San Diego Unified SD.


Our collaboration began in June of 2009, when Superintendent Collins met with the AHSCC to invite us to be a part of a Design Team in the fall. Before that, however, we needed to find out what Alpine/BV wanted in a school. We conducted weekly curriculum meetings where we researched best practices, discussed the latest educational research, took guidance from polls on our website, read numerous books, and analyzed cutting-edge school designs. Most importantly, we cast a wide net, using our website and word of mouth to invite people to our meetings.


As ideas evolved, the Design Team agreed that breaking up a larger high school into many smaller learning academies strengthened relationships among staff, students, and parents. However, after visiting Seattle schools, several of our members found that small school design alone was not the key to maximizing student learning. So, distance learning, rigorous curriculum, the option to earn college credit, project-based learning, and Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways appealed to us. But still, it wasn’t as student-centric as we would have liked. We just felt like breaking up a school into smaller themed academies might make parents feel concerned. What if one school became more popular than the others and students couldn’t get their first choice? What if the themes of the academies still didn’t appeal to some students?


Finally, GUHSD presented the Big Picture model as the design that could meet the requirements the AHSCC set forth in detailed proposals we had submitted. We discovered that the Big Picture model encompassed all we were looking for, providing rigor and relevance, and most importantly a proven program of support and guidance.


I encourage anyone interested in learning about this new school to attend the meeting on June 8 and see that Alpine/BV is in good hands with GUHSD’s proposal.


The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.  If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

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