KVMR forum helps students navigate Nevada County’s high school options | TheUnion.com

KVMR forum helps students navigate Nevada County’s high school options

Starting high school can be a time of fear and trepidation, both for students and their parents.

Long gone are the days when a student would leave middle school and head straight to the one high school in town. These days, Nevada County teens are faced with a bewildering array of options that include not just the traditional comprehensive high schools, but also charter, specialized and independent study programs.

At a forum Tuesday night, KVMR partnered with several Rotary clubs to host a town hall forum that aimed to educate the community about the many options available in Nevada County. The forum featured representatives from Bear River High School, Nevada Union High School, North Point Academy, NU Tech High School, Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning, William & Marian Ghidotti High School, Bitney Prep High School, Forest Charter High School and Vantage Point Charter. Scott Lay, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools and Louise Johnson, superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District, also participated.

High school traditionally marks the transition from child to adult, Johnson noted, adding, "It's our job to help you and them to navigate" that transition.

“I hope the takeaway is that there’s a place for everyone.”

— Louise Johnson, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools

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The staff from each high school provided overviews of their location and size and highlighted some of their unique programs — ranging from Nevada Union, the largest high school in the county at about 1,550 students, to 26 at Penn Valley's Vantage Point.

Amy Besler, principal of Bear River, touted its cozy, smaller family feeling and Bruin Time, a structured period for academic intervention and enrichment with offerings that include meditation, archery, fly-tying and Besler's "funky fresh dance moves."

Russ Jones, the director of Bitney Prep High School, noted the charter school will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and said it works to prepare students to be ready for life and relevant to the world. Jones said the school joined the Big Picture Learning network two years ago and that its students participate in mentored internships one day a week.

Forest Charter is a K-12 school with satellite offices in Auburn, Foresthill and Truckee, said Executive Director Peter Sagebiel; it serves about 200 high school students in Nevada County. Like other small schools in the county, Forest Charter emphasizes personalized learning, Sagebiel said, adding the program is very family-centered and that parent involvement is critical.

Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning graduated its first class of 13 last year, said administrator Erica Crane. The school is growing, however, with 30 seniors on tap to graduate this year and 50 next year. Crane described the program as being project-based, hands-on learning, with partnerships that include the Bear Yuba Land Trust and South Yuba River Citizens League.

At William & Marian Ghidotti High School, students attend classes at Sierra College at no cost. Many students at the school graduate with a high school diploma as well as an associate's degree or credits toward college. Ghidotti is a "school of choice" and caps its enrollment at 160, noted guidance counselor Dominie Wilhite.

Counselor Karla Aaron explained two of the options that are housed on the campus of Nevada Union, North Point Academy and Nevada Union Tech High School. The tech school is for juniors and seniors and currently has 45 enrolled, she said. Two teachers help pace and guide students, who typically either have a job or are taking career tech classes such as auto shop, sports medicine or ag mechanics.

North Point Academy offers independent study programs for students who have a variety of reasons for enrolling, Aaron said. Some have been home-schooled and are looking to transition gradually into a campus environment, some are medically fragile and some are elite athletes who travel a lot.

Vantage Point is the oldest charter school in the county and currently serves 26 high school students, said Superintendent Torie England. Like other such programs, students have to be self-directed learners, but Vantage does offer math tutoring as well as bi-weekly science and art labs.

After their presentations, the administrators fielded questions from the audience on topics that included the availability of extra-curricular activities and college admission records.

"I hope the takeaway is that there's a place for everyone," Johnson said.

Contact Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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