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Vista under fire from parents

Students urged to take fewer classes and graduate early
By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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Recent schedule changes have some parents scratching their heads at Vista Del Lago High School. “Students … are being instructed to take only a 3 x 3 class schedule instead of the 4 x 4 class schedule that was originally set up for the block system during both their junior and senior years,” said Kathy Raymond, 43, Folsom resident of 13 years. She’s the parent of a Vista sophomore and eighth-grader who will attend Vista next year. Raymond said students are also being encouraged to graduate early from high school. “I thought the goal of the block system was to give the kids a greater opportunity for variety in learning, not just to get them out of school as soon as possible or to encourage them to get out of school at 1 p.m. every day so the district could collect their full dollar amount and not have to have the kids at school learning,” Raymond said. According to Stephen Nichols, public information officer for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, the 3 x 3 is not an official schedule. “Vista has not been transferred to a 3 x 3 schedule, it’s still a 4 x 4 schedule,” Nichols said. “We are encouraging students to take one less class if they are on track to graduate.” He said the option has only been made available to students, but is not mandatory. “This is all rooted in budgetary issues,” Nichols said. John Dixon, Vista Del Lago High School principal, said district-wide education is not immune to the fiscal downturn. “The district office asked us to reduce student schedules (at all three high schools in the district),” Dixon said. He said Vista’s approach was to get students exposed to their options. At a Feb. 18 parent information meeting, Dixon said he responded to some parent’s concerns to the changing schedule. “We are not mandating this (schedule change), this is a choice to take 3 x 3 for juniors or seniors (who are on track to graduate),” Dixon said. “We presented it to juniors and sold it to seniors.” Dixon said he understands why the request will impact high achieving academic students, but he said to remember that this is only a request. Raymond said registration for the next academic year was confusing for students and parents because it seemed as if school officials were trying to “gear” students to fill the last course with electives like a teacher’s assistant. “There aren’t enough classes, options or variety to fill the 4 x 4 schedule,” Raymond said. In response Dixon said students were not geared to fill classes with electives, they were only offered choices. “There has never been any guidance of what students can and can’t take,” Dixon said. “They got to pick their classes.” Raymond said she is also concerned with senior students staying involved with school if they only have three classes a day. “I think high school is important, they need to be connected with high school and be there,” she said. “College is already a shock and to only take three classes is leaving them unprepared.” Folsom resident Catherine Piwinski currently has a freshman student at Vista and said the 3 x 3 schedule will affect students who want to follow the four-year plan offered to all high school students. “I’m not overjoyed with this situation, but there is no perfect school,” Piwinski said. “The parents, the schools and the district are all working with this.” She said one concern is the fact that Folsom High School offers more advanced placement (AP) academic courses than Vista Del Lago High School. “I think they are trying to level off the two schools,” Piwinski said. “They need to have the same AP and fluff (elective) courses at both schools to make it fair. Isn’t it about giving them foundation in high school?” Piwinski said through the changes, school officials have made information and guidance very available. Dixon said now the Vista community needs to decide what the worth is in keeping a 4 x 4 schedule for students. “In order to keep it we need to make some concessions,” Dixon said. “If we can’t figure out how to move towards a fiscally successful schedule there is a high probability that we will go back to a traditional schedule with six classes a day.” He said with Vista growing as quickly as it is, changes must be implemented. “The reality is that since we opened we have been the school of choice,” Dixon said. “Now we have gotten to the point that we are turning down students.” He said since Folsom High School is currently a larger school than Vista, there are more academic courses offered to students. “We are trying to attract students to Folsom High School,” he said. “But as we (Vista) grow, that will not always be the case.” Vista Del Lago High School offers 13 AP courses and Folsom High School offers 17 AP courses, Dixon said. He said there are still ample options for college bound Vista students to take the AP courses needed to succeed. Shobha Mallarapu is a Folsom resident of 14 years and parent of a Vista sophomore and an eighth-grader. “I am concerned about the limited number of classes that seniors can take, if they had something planned out with a four-year plan with AP classes then they should be able to take their classes,” Mallarapu said. “But because of limitation of classes that they can take in their senior year, some students who want to get to more advanced courses may never get a chance to take them and other classes they are interested in pursing.” Mallarapu is also the Folsom Middle School Parent Teacher Organization president and Vista Del Lago High School Parent Teacher Student Association vice president. “I understand the budget issues right now, but if we had known about the 3 x 3 schedule earlier, before their freshman year, we would have planned out their course work differently,” Mallarapu said. “I am a very strong proponent of the 4 x 4 schedule and would like to see it stay because it allows the students to take more classes than with the traditional schedule. If the schedule does change to traditional schedule, then students will not have any options because Folsom High School is already a traditional schedule.” For more information or to ask questions, call (916) 294-2410.