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September 30, 2023

Will high schools be equal

Planning for the opening of Sobrato High School is under way
with the recommendation to the School Board during the June 9
meeting that the school be opened with half of the district
’s ninth and tenth graders in August 2004.
Planning for the opening of Sobrato High School is under way with the recommendation to the School Board during the June 9 meeting that the school be opened with half of the district’s ninth and tenth graders in August 2004.

“The idea is to have two comprehensive high schools that offer opportunities to all students,” said Sobrato Planning Principal Rich Knapp, who made the recommendation.

But some in the community are concerned because a smaller number of students at each school may not allow the schools to offer the same programs. Live Oak High Principal Nancy Serigstad said welding and the agricultural program will be moved to Sobrato, while others will only be offered at Live Oak.

“We have had this nice small community pulling together for one high school, and now our high school community will be torn apart,” said Cindy Peterson, a parent of six children: two who have graduated from Live Oak, one who just finished her junior year at Live Oak, one in Martin Murphy Middle and two at El Toro Elementary.

“I am worried about what is ahead for my kids. And I worked on the bond campaign. I believed we needed two schools. But now enrollment is down, and we probably won’t have the same programs at the two schools. I think if that is the case, students should be able to volunteer to attend the new school.”

Knapp said these kinds of details would have to be worked out.

“I would expect that the board would make a decision on transfers and the way this will be implemented,” he said. “Typically, in other districts where programs are offered at one school but not another, the community is given options.”

The concerns extend to areas beyond core academics and electives. Sports programs and music programs, as well as clubs and organizations, are of concern to prospective students and their families.

Concerning sports, there are no league policies regulating what school an athlete attends as long as it is within the district and the athlete is playing for the school he or she attends.

“It just depends on what the district does,” said Tri-County Athletic League Commissioner Elgie Bellizio. “There is no league policy. Once the school opens there will be certain students attending the school based on what the district says. When you do that there is no problem with eligibility. Once school is in session, then with transfers, you have to worry about eligibility.”

Depending on the district policy, athletes can usually transfer one time as long as both school principals agree, Bellizio said.

“They have to represent the school they are enrolled in,” Bellizio said. “Every high school student has a one-time freebie transfer if he meets certain criteria. But it is up to the district with how they want to do it. We had the problem in Salinas with open enrollment with kids going to a different area.”

After the first time, students are not allowed to transfer unless there is a hardship case or unless the student moves. A student could be ineligible to compete in sports for a year.

“There a number of options and it varies from case to case,” Bellizio said. “Different things come into play when eligibility is concerned.”

And some Live Oak faculty members have voiced concerns that renovations will not be enough to have comparable physical facilities.

For concerned Emerald Regime families, or students who one day hope to play in the Emerald Regime, Knapp said there obviously cannot be two Emerald Regimes. But, he said, he hopes to expand the music program to serve more students. He did acknowledge that building a marching band at Sobrato, just as building varsity teams that can compete against existing teams, would take time.

“If we use music as an example, my plan is to meet with the (band) boosters this fall, and we will begin the process,” he said. “We will talk about what the secondary music program should be, what would it look like at Live Oak and at Sobrato and even at the middle schools. Maybe we will have a comprehensive choir; right now, we don’t.

“And there are other options, like incorporating strings. We don’t have an orchestra, we don’t have a concert band. These are some of the ideas. We’ll grow into the marching band (at Sobrato), but the boosters and the music teachers will be involved. I do expect there will be a marching band.”

The plan to open Sobrato with ninth and tenth graders is, Knapp said, based on his knowledge of how other high schools in the Bay Area have opened and on these considerations:

• These students would not have an allegiance to Live Oak High;

• These students would have the benefit of a focus on ninth and tenth instruction during the opening year;

• With only ninth and tenth grade students, co-curricular programs could be phased in over a period of three years;

• There will be a minimal disruption of students as ninth and tenth graders are moved into the two high schools simultaneously.

With Knapp’s recommendation, only three buildings will have to be completed in order to open the high school, he said: the administration building, the “B” classroom wing and the “C” classroom wing.

His recommendation came to the board as an information item, but will come back to the board for more discussion at the June 23 regular meeting.

Serigstad said there are advantages to the plan.

“Educationally, that’s a much better environment,” she said of the initial 9-10 makeup. “We see that size is so important. With a larger school, there can be a lack of communication. For example, this senior class is a class I know really well, because I came in as assistant principal. It’s really good for the students when the administrators can say, ‘Hey, how did you do in that class,’ or ‘How are things going for you,’ and know the students by name.”

While some agree that the so-called small school experience is better for students, others argue that with smaller schools, there are less options for students in the way of electives, sports and other programs because there aren’t enough students to support them.

“I am not sure this is a good thing for our community right now,” Peterson said. “If both of our schools cannot offer things our students are looking for, this could make our enrollment actually go down, with parents pulling their students out to put them in private schools that have those options.”

Sports Editor Nathan Mixter contributed to this story.

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