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Board adopts alternative education programs

Middle College, College Now! to provide early college access to more students
Art by Dorian Luo

In a move district officials say will save money and provide more opportunities for students, The Board of Education approved for PAUSD to host the Foothill Middle College and College Now! programs starting next fall. Students previously attended these respective programs through a contract with the Mountain View-Los Altos School District.

The Foothill Middle College program offers college-credit courses for juniors and seniors in a nontraditional tighter-knit cohort-based setting on a college campus. Similarly, the College Now! program offers an accelerated pathway for “independent and motivated students” to complete college credits in high school.

Jeong Choe, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Agility, said the Board’s decision will allow the district to directly influence student success and increase the programs’ future capacity.

“Some students need special education support, some students have an IEP, and some students could benefit from additional counseling,” Choe said. “Those services will be more comprehensively provided by our own PAUSD staff.”

Despite the stereotypes associated with the Middle College program, Choe said it offers learning benefits to a variety of students, not just struggling ones.

“Students might benefit from the smaller school setting at the Middle College because they know our high schools are relatively big,” Choe said. “(There are also) students who have not been exposed to college courses and some (who) really have unique interests.”
One benefit of the Middle College program is the opportunity for students to smoothly transfer credits earned in the program to Foothill Community College. Former Paly and Foothill Middle College student Shaad Beig said the college credits he earned through courses at the Middle College were an appealing alternative to regular high school courses.

“It’s almost like a dream come true –– not having to take honors classes, getting college credits and finishing your high school diploma at the same time,” Beig said. “My plan at the time was to go to Foothill, do two years and then transfer.”

Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ladomirak said the programs serves students well and show lots of potential. Right now the program services 45 students out of a capacity of 60.

“So far, it seems to have been showing some promise,” Ladomirak said. “It’s not about kids who aren’t performing, who are sort of messing up in school. It’s really about students who have a lot of academic potential but struggle with the other stuff that goes around with being a high school student.”

Ladomirak said the Board also hopes the new program save the district money.

“The cost for the current Middle College program this year is about $651,000,” Ladomirak said. “Dr. Choe thinks we could cut that cost in about half by implementing our own program because right now we just contract with MVLA.”

Regarding student transitions moving forward, current juniors in the Foothill Middle College and College Now! Programs will remain in the MVLA system, with PAUSD limiting its applications to incoming juniors. Choe said such a decision would allow students to continue their existing pathway with minimal disruption.

“Based on some of the feedback we got from their current families at the MVLA program, we feel like they’ve already transitioned (after entering the program as juniors),” Choe said.

Future students will continue to take classes on the foothill campus. To accommodate for the additional distance compared to local schools, Beig said that students can take advantage of free bus passes.

“When I first started going to Foothill I would have my sister dropped off me halfway at the bus stop on her way to work,” Beig said. “I like taking the bus because it gives me an hour to just decompress and be alone in my mind, letting me process life.”
As PAUSD plans to expand the program, Choe said she aims to prioritize student opinions and figure out a schedule that serves each student the best.

“We have to gauge student interests first, and how many we can take and staff,” Choe said.“There’s going to be a lot of things that we have to figure out. We’re hoping that we can have a (morning and afternoon) cohort for each grade level.”

Overall, Choe said she remains optimistic about the changes and hopes that students will continue to prosper.

“We’re excited about taking this innovative approach for flexibility,” Choe said. “We can engage students who may really benefit from this setting.”

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Henry Liu
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