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New living skills class proposed

Kenneth Horowitz, a health teacher at Foothill Community College, and Nanette Solvason, the Dean of Biology and Health Services, proposed offering a collaborative health class as an alternative to Living Skills, a health class covering sex and drugs education and physical and mental wellbeing, on Aug. 23.

Horowitz teaches Contemporary Health Concerns (Health 21), the most similar class to Living Skills at Foothill, and has advocated that the PAUSD strengthen its health requirements for years. However, Solvason’s presence and support for Horowitz’s idea at the Aug 23.

School Board Meeting lent more credence to his idea. They believe that Health 21 may be a more interesting and useful option for Paly and Gunn students than living skills.

“At the college we do have … a lot of latitude in terms of making things topical for students,” Solvason said. “For example … there’s a lot that students need to understand now about what consent really is, and about bullying. These are all things that are important to the high school community that can be covered in a class like [Health 21].”

Other Health 21 topics not covered or less covered in Living Skills include detailed and scientific analyses of stress, discussion of prevention for communicable diseases from STD’s and AIDS to Tuberculosis and a unit on consumer health, which includes topics such as the differences between brand name and generic medicine and what types of health care professionals and facilities are available. According to the Health 21 and Living Skill’s syllabi.

Superintendent Max McGee expressed support for a collaborative health class with Foothill, but he also sees the need to do more research to work out the details.

“First things first and that’s to identify where living skills is successful now and where it could be improved,” McGee said.” We do that by listening to students, listening to teachers and hearing what some of the parents have to say … Obviously what I’d love to do is try to get some funding to start a pilot. I don’t think we can just jump in and say hey we’re going to change this and just go full bore.”


Horowitz and Solvason came up with three ideas on making Health 21 accessible for Paly and Gunn students: Sending Foothill teachers to Paly and Gunn to teach the class, hiring Paly and Gunn teachers to teach the class and making Health 21 an online course available to Paly and Gunn students.

Hiring Paly and Gunn teachers to teach Health 21 may present a problem as to teach Health 21 teachers have to be certified to teach college by the state.

In order for Health 21 to fulfill the same credit requirements as Living Skills, Health 21’s curriculum would have to be changed. Currently Health 21 only counts for four credits, unlike Living Skills at Paly and Gunn which counts for five. Adding the 15 community service hours required for Living Skills to Health 21 may solve this problem.

If the district accepts Horowitz and Solvason’s proposal, they may also request that Health 21’s curriculum be tweaked in order to better align the course with the district’s goals for a health class.

Since Health 21 is a college course students enrolled in, it could potentially get college credit.

“We can do something called dual enrollment where student can, if it’s agreeable with both the high school and the college, receive both high school and college credit for the same class,” Solvason said.

Horowitz and Solvason believe Health 21 could be available to students by next year.

“If [the districts] want to have [Health 21] so that students get high school credit and college credit, that takes a little time because the Palo Alto Unified School Board has to agree to that, and our board of trustees has to agree to that.” Solvason said.

McGee on the other hand sees the undertaking of creating a collaborative health class as a longer process.

“If we started this moment we could have it [a collaborative health class] in place maybe this year, but at this point I am looking at the 2018-19 school year,” McGee said. “Part of the reason is we already have a full plate … That being said I think it would be worthwhile to take some time this year and at least start doing some ground work.”

Solvason stressed that adding Health 21 as an option for students would not take away from Living Skills.

“I don’t want this to come across as ‘we’re going to come in and do something that’s going to displace Living Skills’ because that’s not the goal. It’s not necessary; it’s not our intention. It’s really meant to either supplement or give another option [to students].”

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