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The Paly Voice

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The Paly Voice

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District launches new Middle College High School

Beginning this fall, the Palo Alto Unified School District will begin offering the Middle College High School program at the Foothill Community College campus. According to Superintendent Jeong Choe, the program will empower students to achieve their academic potential through a nurturing and supportive classroom environment. “Our goals for Middle College High School students are that they will: have an easier transition between high school and college, motivation to pursue interests and graduate high school, explore career options and opportunities, [and] earn career certification and work experience skills,” Choe stated in an email to the Paly Voice. (Photo: Kofi Kim)

The Palo Alto Unified School District will begin offering Middle College High School — an alternative to the city’s existing high schools — this fall at the Foothill Community College campus. 

According to PAUSD Assistant Superintendent Jeong Choe, students at Middle College High School will be part of a separate program that integrates high school and college-level coursework. While they take community college courses on Foothill’s campus, their diploma will be issued by the Middle College High School. Students will take three year-long high school classes and two or three college courses each quarter. 

Choe stated in an email to The Paly Voice that PAUSD previously partnered with the Mountain View-Los Altos School District to allow students to participate in the Middle College program, which offers Dual Enrollment courses with Foothill Community College and a novel high school experience. 

“When PAUSD first explored the Middle College program with Mountain View-Los Altos School District, it decided to leverage the relationship that MVLA had with the Foothill-De Anza Community College District,” Choe said. “Since then, PAUSD has developed its own close collaborative relationship with Foothill College through its robust Dual Enrollment courses. It was a natural progression for PAUSD to create a Middle College High School.”

According to a board meeting on Oct. 24, in order to facilitate a smoother transition from MLVA, current juniors will continue to attend the program via MLVA through their senior year. PAUSD’s own partnership with Foothill College to offer the Middle College program will enroll only juniors for the 2024-25 school year, expanding to include seniors in 2025-26. PAUSD’s projected cost for the 2023-24 Middle College program offered through MVLA is $674,084, serving 45 students with a capacity of 60 students. Starting in 2025-26, the district aims to fully implement its own program, at approximately half that cost.

Students in Middle College High School will experience two levels of curriculum: courses taught by PAUSD teachers that are similar to the offerings from Paly and Gunn, and courses taught by Foothill College professors that cover the same graduation requirements as Paly and Gunn. Both levels of will offer flexible options such as in-person, virtual, online and hybrid — both synchronous and asynchronous — with all in-person classes taking place at the Foothill campus. 

According to a Middle College information session presentation, the faculty will consist of a principal, counselor, special education case manager, secretary and three teachers covering Math, English, and Social Studies. Additional staff could be added depending on student enrollment or needs. Students enrolled in the Middle College program will still be able to participate in sports and activities at their home schools as long as they don’t interfere with their coursework.

Choe said that through a combination of cohort core classes and engaging college level course options, the program creates a setting conducive to academic excellence and personal development in which students can complete their high school graduation requirements. 

Junior Kayla Kristenson, who is currently enrolled in the Foothill College Now! program, said that attending college courses and being at Foothill has helped her grow academically and take more accountability for her studies. 

“At Paly, I definitely didn’t care about my schoolwork too much and could often go the whole week either skipping several classes, doing no work [or] quickly catching up over the weekend but still doing fine with my grades,” Kristenson said. “At Foothill, the teacher can drop you if you miss too many classes, and your parents don’t get called about your attendance or grades. If you want to do good you’ve got to do it yourself. You don’t get many second chances.” 

According to Kristenson, the program is helpful to prepare for college and the future. 

“I’ve basically graduated early because credits here are worth double, and I’m only taking three classes: two on one day and one on another, so some days I’m only [at school for] two hours,” Kristenson said. “Based on my grades I have a very high chance of getting in — starting as a junior in college and graduating from there early too. It’s a program that, while you miss out a bit on your high school experience, sets you up really well for your future.”

According to a board meeting on Jan 16, a survey sent to PAUSD students in December received 32 responses from juniors and seniors, 55 from sophomores, and 53 from freshmen, all expressing their interests in attending the program.

However, some students are having reservations about attending the program. Sophomore Aiden Yuan said that he wouldn’t consider enrolling in Middle College because he would be separated from his friends.

“I have friends at Paly and I wouldn’t want to leave them,” Yuan said. “I can’t see many people going out of their way to attend it [PAUSD Middle College] instead of Gunn or Paly because they would have to leave the high school campuses.”

Regardless of the social scene, Kristenson said she is enjoying her time at Foothill and looking forward to spending her time at the campus.

“Foothill has a ton of cool places,” Kristenson said. “There’s a huge library, they have a beautiful campus with a lot of stairs and an Athletic Treatment Center that I’m going to be working at soon that I’m super excited about. Foothill honestly has a really good community.”

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About the Contributors
Celina Lee
Celina Lee, Editor-in-Chief
Anna Feng
Anna Feng, Senior Staff Writer
Anna Feng (Class of 2024) joined The Voice her sophomore year. Outside of journalism, she enjoys volunteering, listening to podcasts and spending time outdoors.

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