Peninsula Continuation High School could get a new middle name — Alternative.
On Thursday, the San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees will vote to close Peninsula High School starting July 31 and reopen the San Bruno campus as Peninsula Alternative High School, a school of choice, Aug. 1. Changing from a continuation to an alternative school won’t create visible changes at Peninsula High this fall. The campus will remain in place. Students will see similar faces in the staff. But behind the scenes, there will be lots of work. Being a continuation school in California comes with a number of rules that limit program changes. It’s those limitations the district is seeking to change.
“Why restrict yourself when you can instead make a better alternative?” Superintendent Scott Laurence asked.
Traditionally, continuation schools are associated with allowing students to be in school for shorter amounts of time to work. Students are counseled to attend Peninsula’s continuation program for a variety of reasons — difficulty working in a traditional model, to recover credits or in response to issues at a comprehensive school.
In recent years, Peninsula has been moving away from that model. The school day was extended from five to seven periods, said Laurence. The graduating class went from 48 in 2008 to 111 in the most recent year, said Peninsula Principal Don Scatena. Classes offering career technical training are now being offered. And, this past year, students were encouraged to really take on leadership roles to bring the student body together.
Scatena believes in providing more opportunities for the students. Doing so would be easier with an alternative status. Thursday’s vote would be the final step in allowing the district to start working on creating and expanding programs.
For example, as an alternative school, Peninsula could work with sophomores. Currently, students must be 16 or a junior to be considered. Exceptions are made for teen moms. Graduating from a continuation school also has a stigma, said Scatena, who added that Peninsula students are held to the same graduation requirements as those who graduate from the other district comprehensive high schools.
In the long-term vision, Scatena plans to offer career training options for students exploring topics like health care, culinary arts and construction technology. Ideally, students could choose after their freshman year to attend Peninsula and pursue the opportunities to learn more in their given field. Already, partnership talks have started with Skyline College to allow students to concurrently earn high school and college credit while learning a skill. The goal, Scatena said, is to prepare students to have options once they graduate of either attending college or going into a viable vocation.
“We want students to be in a better position to be successful,” he said.
Another benefit to the change will be for student athletes.
Peninsula won’t be starting competitive athletic teams. Instead, academically eligible student athletes at Peninsula would have the option to play for their San Mateo Union High School District home schools in the Peninsula Athletic League. For instance, if a student athlete left San Mateo High for Peninsula, he or she would only be eligible to return to San Mateo for sports.
An outlook that includes a variety of new programs and career focuses isn’t the only change in Peninsula’s future. Since a January 2012 study session, the district has been looking for a new facility for Peninsula. At a March study session, the board directed Laurence to take six months to look for acres of central land that could be home to Peninsula. Laurence plans to present findings to the public in September but said he was pleasantly surprised to learn there are more options available than he originally had thought.
The board meets 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at the San Mateo Adult School, 789 E. Poplar Ave., San Mateo.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105