ESCONDIDO — Typically, the back-to-school narrative involves adults sending their kids back to school with new backpacks and supplies, perhaps some new clothing and a fresh mindset for a new year of instruction. But in Escondido — and indeed throughout the state of California — “back to school” has a whole different meaning for thousands of adult-aged students.
In that vein, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Escondido Adult School, which is located near the city’s downtown. Unlike many adult schools, often referred to as “night school” in other places nationwide because classes take place at night at community colleges or other locales, Escondido’s school is a full-fledged part of the Escondido Union High School District.
The adult school is funded with a combination of state taxpayer money and federal grants given by the U.S. Department of Education and distributed under the legal auspices of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Principal Brian Head told The Coast News in an interview. Head said a ballpark estimate figure of about $2.5 million worth of state taxpayer dollars fund the school, while the rest of the $3 million aggregate pot comes from WIOA grant money. Head said that the school has an enrollment of about 3,000 students and most students are aged 19 to 30, though not a trivial portion are older than that age bloc.
Over the years, the school has had multiple homes, including within the walls of Escondido High School and in portable classrooms outside of the walls of San Pasqual High School. Today, it sits at a location which formerly served as a corporate office building, which it moved into in 2011. In all, more than 300 adult schools exist throughout California, with five situated in northern San Diego County.
Just a friendly reminder that the first day of school is tomorrow, Wednesday, August 15th! We are looking forward to a whole new school year! #Excited #SleepEarly #WelcomeBack pic.twitter.com/JuSusidnIn
— EUHSD (@EUHSD) August 14, 2018
The other four include the Poway Adult School, Ramona Adult School, San Marcos Adult School and the Vista Adult School. All of those schools are part of the broader Education to Career Network consortium, which Head said offers students the chance to take a wider range of classes based on their academic and career needs, as well as take courses and prepare for further education at Palomar College, which is located in San Marcos.
While classes officially begin on Sept. 4 after Labor Day this year and follow the traditional public school academic calendar, the Adult School’s English as a Second Language program has essentially drop-in enrollment. That means English can be learned and improved upon at any time during the year, meeting four times a week either for morning classes or evening ones.
“ESL, classes, like our academic high school diploma and high school equivalency preparation classes, run from the beginning of September to the end of June,” said Head. “They are ongoing, except for Christmas and Easter breaks. We describe them as ‘open-entry’ classes in so far that students can attend at any time after attending our weekly orientations and join the actual class the following week.”
According to a 2016 study published by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges on the Adult School, students of Hispanic ethnic background made up 77 percent of the student body for the 2014-2015 academic year and in that same year the student body was about 60 percent female and 40 percent male.
As a state- and federal-funded school, students attend free of charge for all ESL classes, as well as for any course pertaining to earning a high school diploma, high school equivalency or adult basic education classes. In some instances, too, the adult school comes to students on a satellite basis, Head explained, having established partnerships with some area elementary schools, convenient for parents with kids who attend those schools. Head also cited the Two Directions, Inc. partnership, which exists between Escondido Adult School and the San Pasqual Band of Mission and Rincon Band of Luiseño Native American tribes and brings the adult school out to these tribal reservations.
To earn a high school diploma from the school, students must earn 190 credits in subjects ranging from English (40 credits total), Foreign Language (10 credits), Math and Algebra (10 credits each), Physical Science (10 credits), Biological Science (10 credits), U.S. History (10 credits), among others, according to the fall class schedule and registration booklet distributed to students and prospective students. Students can register online, in-person at the school or by mailing in the registration form.
— EUHSD (@EUHSD) June 2, 2018
Each school within the Education to Career Network has its own academic specialties and for the Escondido Adult School, that’s in the medical field. Classes offered in that orbit include Certified Nurse Assistant and Certified Home Health Aide courses, classes to become a pharmacy technician and medical assistant and veterinarian assistant-centric courses.
“Escondido Adult School Medical programs provide training that prepares students for state exams, licensing, and employment,” according to Adult School’s fall 2018 class schedule and registration booklet. “Students who graduate from our programs enter into the medical workforce with the knowledge and skills needed to become an integral part of any healthcare team.”
Head said that an important part of what the night school has to offer is that it’s more than just a school and, ideally, should serve as a launching pad for new career opportunities. The school has both a career counselor and transitions specialist on staff available to advise all students on their jobs-related pursuits.
With a mission statement of “lifelong learning” emblazoned above the front door of the school, Head said he hopes the school can be an epicenter for community betterment and “helping people to improve their lives” for decades to come.
“We want to make sure that you move onto the next stage of your life,” said Head. “In others words, one of the phrases I like to use is ‘This is not — getting your high school diploma — is not the end of the story but the beginning of the story.’ So, we’re very concerned with helping students transition to employment or more postsecondary training.”
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 ouetlet, 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.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.