Fletcher introduces theme program

In response to declining student enrollment, Fletcher Middle School plans to implement a sustainability theme into its curriculum and allow PAUSD middle school students outside of Fletcher’s attendance boundaries to enroll next year.

Seventh and eighth grade Fletcher science teacher Tamara Wallace proposed the program during the Board of Education’s Oct. 25 meeting.

“Fletcher’s Sustainability for All program creates opportunities for students to explore ways they can take equitable action to promote a flourishing environment in which people and living things access healthy food, clean air, and safe water,” Wallace said.

As a themed school, Fletcher will embed a focus on environmental sustainability in its core classes. Board member Jennifer DiBrienza said all students will participate in environmentally-conscious work.

“The entire school is going to do some of this sustainability work,” DiBrienza said. “If you’re zoned for Fletcher, your science classes are probably going to have more sustainability topics. You’ll see students doing gardening work, or writing or researching in their humanities classes about sustainability and about climate change.”

To increase its outreach, the middle school will also partner with various community organizations including Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability.

“The city continues to move towards its sustainability goals, and Stanford just recently opened a new School of Sustainability,” DiBrienza said. “Those are going to be two partners for Fletcher.”

DiBrienza said the program was created to counter Fletcher’s declining student population. While the school can support around 750 students, it has fewer than 550.

“Fletcher was always been our smallest middle school, but as enrollment goes down across the whole district, enrollment is going down at each of our schools,” DiBrienza said. “Because Fletcher was already a smaller school, enrollment went down precariously.”

In comparison to Fletcher’s intention to increase student enrollment, DiBrienza said the two other middle schools in the district have themes that were introduced as an alternative to traditional learning opportunities.

“The (JLS) Connections program probably was our first specialty middle school,” DiBrienza said. “Parents were working to offer a more project-based alternative to the mainstream experience. The only other middle school choice we have right now is the language bridges programs (at Greene).”

The choice aspect of Fletcher’s sustainability program will be a lottery system that will allow students living in the other middle school boundaries to attend Fletcher instead.

Board member Jesse Ladomirak said the proposed program is something that could be implemented across the district.

“Even if JLS is your neighborhood school, you still have to apply to get into the Connections program,” Ladomirak said. “With Fletcher, everybody who lives within the geographic boundaries of Fletcher is going to this theme school. In addition, there’s going to be a lottery to open it up to students who live outside those geographic boundaries. We’re considering using (this model) throughout the district with neighborhood schools.”