VISTA — A cherished untraditional school within the Vista Unified School District, Alta Vista High School, may soon come to a close. But parents, alumni and even an ex-Vista Unified school district principal told The Coast News that it will not happen without pushback.
Kimble, author of the 2010 book “The Savvy Superintendent: Leading Instruction to the Top of the Class,” first announced that Alta Vista may soon shut its doors in an address given to the Vista Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the things we’re talking about is consolidating our programs and services to make them make sense,” said Kimble at the Jan. 28 Vista Chamber of Commerce State of the Community Luncheon. “So, Alta and (Major General Raymond) Murray (High School) are two continuation schools we have in our district. You might argue that a district our size doesn’t need two continuation schools, but they might need a little boost in childhood education. In fact, a big one. So, right now they are currently educating 700 of our kids in Vista and we will be opening Alta in the coming year as an early childhood center.”START AT 2:57:
Kimble confirmed that the plan to shutter Alta Vista remains in place, saying that it will save the school district $1.2 million.
“VUSD currently has two continuation high schools, Alta Vista High School and Major General Murray High School. Alta Vista has the capacity to serve approximately 300 students and is currently serving approximately 100 students,” Kimble said. “By merging the campuses, we will be able to offer career pathway opportunities for all VUSD students as well as continuing to provide students with credit recovery options.”
The announcement has yet to come in front of the Vista Unified School District Board for a vote, though community members have come out against the proposed closure during the public commenting period of meetings.
But the potentially imminent closure of the school has raised the ire of many community members, sparking the rise of a Facebook page named Save Alta Vista High School.
“The superintendent, Dr. Linda Kimble, has unilaterally decided to close down Alta Vista High school without the approval of school board members. She did not give parents, teachers, students, or the community a chance to give their input on this matter,” wrote the Facebook group. “This decision is trying to fix the budget problems on the backs of the most vulnerable students in the district.”
Continuation schools like Alta Vista allow for students facing trying circumstances, such as instability at home or the birth of a child at a young age, to take time off of school and return back at a later date as continuation students.
“Many students become credit deficient, they fall behind in credits/classes needed to graduate,” Mary Contreras, former principal at Vista Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts, a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus, who spent the last year and a half of her career as a teacher at Alta Vista High School, told The Coast News. “We don’t ‘hold students back’ so they often drop out realizing they won’t graduate. Continuation schools give them a chance to recover credits and have the chance to graduate.”
Contreras says that the small class sizes at continuation schools like Alta Vista allow for some students to thrive in ways not plausible in bigger school atmospheres.
“Teachers are able to make connections with these students who often had been ignored or disregarded because the campus and classes are much smaller on a continuation campus,” said Contreras. She added these dynamics could change if the student bodies at Murray High School and Alta Vista High School end up fused together.
Noah Reynolds, a 20-year-old student at Palomar College in San Marcos who graduated from Alta Vista, said the school served as a lifeline for him in the midst of trying times during his high school years.
“To the community held within, Alta Vista truly is a family,” Reynolds said. “The teachers have become a close-knit group that welcomes in a new group of wayward students every year and helps form them into productive and often times service-orientated members of society. To me personally, Alta represented a last chance scenario.”
Shiloh Strawbridge, whose first-grade daughter attends Vista Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts, said that she believes that beyond lack of transparency, lack of robust deliberation between all stakeholders has enabled an atmosphere of “manufacturing crises” within Vista Unified School District.
“I think what you’re seeing is just a habit of manufacturing crises and then making unilateral decisions to solve the crisis when instead of saying, hey, we have what looks like a problem, let’s investigate this and see what’s really going on there and what we can do with community input,” said Strawbridge participates in an ad hoc group of parents advocating against the closure of Alta Vista and other school district policy proposals.
The next Vista Unified School District Board meeting takes place at 6 p.m., March 5 at Temple Heights Elementary School (1550 Temple Heights Dr, Oceanside, CA, 92056)
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.