Alta Vista High School was named one of the state’s 31 model continuation schools for 2019 to 2021.
The competition was fierce: Alta Vista is one of the state’s 435 continuation high schools. The schools were recognized for their “innovative approach to instruction and helping students who have faced many challenges – including behavior issues, chronic absenteeism and truancy – get back on the pathway to learning,” according to a statement from the California Department of Education. However, Alta Vista has made the list of model schools for the past 20 years.
“It’s an honor,” said Principal Bill Pierce. “But it’s also just part of what our school does.”
Alta Vista is a small school of approximately 80 students.
Students attend Alta Vista for several reasons, but Pierce said there are three main ones: students who don’t have enough class credits to be on track to graduate from the traditional high school, students who miss too much school to graduate and students who self-refer. Pierce said there’s a growing number of students who decide that a smaller school would be better for them. In the 2017-2018 school year, approximately 60 percent of students received a free or reduced-price lunch, which means they come from families with low incomes. Twenty-five percent were English-language learners. During that year, fewer than half of the students met the statewide benchmark for English language arts, and only 3 percent met or exceeded the math benchmark.
They have one principal, seven full-time teachers and a host of aides and support staff. Pierce said he’s particularly proud of the staff at Alta Vista, who he said are excellent teachers and compassionate people.
“Our students have lots going on in their lives and are sometimes quite challenging,” he said. “They need help comprehending algebraic equations just as much as they need help navigating a difficult time in their lives.”
Each spring, Foothill College offers an introduction to college and career planning course at Alta Vista’s campus for seniors. Many students from Alta Vista go on to Foothill College or another community college, some enter the workforce right after graduating and a few enter the military.
Alta Vista was selected as a model continuation high school through a process that included a self-evaluation, school visits and a peer evaluation. Because of its status as a model school, Alta Vista regularly has visitors who observe how the school works and which practices they can bring back to their own schools. Pierce said they usually host a dozen or so visitors annually.