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Students choose smaller schools as music class restrictions hit sour note with parents

MARYSVILLE Last week about 3,000 students in the Marysville School District finalized their choices for the smaller learning communities they will attend next fall, but possible restrictions on music classes have hit a sour note with some parents.
The states second largest high school is the cramped Marysville-Pilchuck campus with 2,700 students currently and more to come. The largest public high school in Washington is in the Pasco School District and is designed for more students who attend split shifts. Next year 3,100 high school students will be taught in nine different academies ranging from about 300 to 400 students at the smallest to a maximum of 1,200.
Two of those schools are already operating as Marysville Arts & Technology, Tulalip Heritage and Marysville Mountain View high schools; they will likely expand, particularly A&T. But the district behemoth will be cut down to size with the Pathways of Choice school the largest with 1,200 and five other schools with 400 kids each.
Many of those schools will focus on certain areas of expertise or academic, vocational or educational emphasis. Computer aided drafting, architecture and teaching is joined by auto shop and Advanced Placement courses in the technology academy at the M-P campus for example.
Students filled out questionnaires with their choice of SLCs listed by priority and those were due by March 12. On Monday, March 19, high school administrators sat down for a six-hour meeting with counselors, a parent, two board members and assistant superintendent Gail Miller. A computer programmer from the Monroe School District was retained to write a program to help them sift through the 3,100 applications, but Miller emphasized that she and the M-P leadership are deciding which will be the best fit for students.
We make the decisions about the sorting, not the computer, Miller said.
The committee will look at a first cut of what happens if every student got their first choice, then will examine where there are more first choices, and how that plays out.
Then how do we randomly choose students who get their choice? Well have a number of sorts and decision points along the way.
Miller said administrators will have the flexibility to assign students where there is demand. The smaller schools have a target of 400, but that could range from 380 to 420 students, and while Pathways is slated to be the largest with 1,200, that could vary by 100 students, plus or minus. The effect would be felt most in the SLCs.
Thats 40 students, when you look at four grade levels that works out to about 10 students in each level, Miller said.
Superintendent Larry Nyland quoted a study encouraging even smaller academies. Planners were urged to stay well below the 400-student mark because in other schools teachers would divide themselves by grade level, one teaching frosh, another sophomores, et al, which works against the idea the SLC allow personalized attention.
Thats not the intent, the teachers are supposed to have students over the course of several years, Miller said.
Many parents have feared that every student will want to attend Pathways, as it will be the closest in size and variety of course offerings to a traditional comprehensive high school. A cursory inspection of the SLC applications by principals at the district middle and junior high schools revealed that wasnt the case at all, according to Miller. They were choosing a broad selection of schools, she said, adding that the work should be done by April 2.
Our goal is to have most of this completed by spring break, Miller said.

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