High School Consolidation– What Does the Community Think?

Amira Beck, Staff Writer

On November 18th, it will be decided if Analy and El Molino High Schools are to be consolidated onto one campus. As outlined in the previous two board meetings concerning consolidation, the board will have to cut many programs and school activities, including sports and CTE education, if the high school campuses remain separate. Irrespective of the outcome, the students and teachers in our community have formed strong opinions on the matter. I decided to interview a couple of faculty members and students in order to get a clearer understanding of how our community feels about this matter.

I first spoke with the El Molino AP history teacher, John Gretch. My first and most important question was, “how do you feel about consolidation?”. In his opinion, “It’s better for students if there are two schools, [but the] demographics show that the possibility [to run two schools] is no longer there.”  I asked about the positives and negatives that can come from this change. To this he replied,

“We can finally stop pretending that there is a rivalry between Analy and Elmo, we will become culturally one school. More flexible scheduling will be allowed [for El Molino students] since in recent years there have been too few students for scheduling flexibility. The staff will be able to communicate and cooperate better. [When it comes to negatives] people need to travel further for school, and I wonder if some teachers are going to lose their jobs.”

Another topic that came up was other options that could have been considered before the consolidation of high schools. To that, Mr. Gretch said “if we were to combine districts, that would be a no brainer, but we’re dealing with history. Some of these districts have been around since the 1850s, how do you get school boards to dissolve themselves?”  Mr. Gretch came to the conclusion that this conversation has been going on for over 20 years, and he himself has fought against it for many years but that he is finally, “tired of fighting”. 

Malea Deis, an eleventh grader at El Molino high school who spoke at the board meeting on November 3rd, had some interesting insights. Deis believes that the harm of not consolidating is larger than the harm of consolidation. She spoke up about a concern of many incoming seniors, saying, “not consolidating will give dismal opportunities for [our] final year.” 

Heidi Mickelson, the agriculture teacher at Analy High School, had a similar perspective. She said that she is, “in favor of consolidation, [because] CTE is essential for students.” Mickelson spoke in favor of the arts, electives, CTEs, APs, and sports that are all in danger of being cut. Her finishing statement was that no matter what happens we need to stay “West County strong.” Earl Pasamonte, a PE teacher at Analy High School, also agrees with consolidation. With the possibility of sports being cut, he believes that consolidation would solve the issue of, “declining enrollment for frosh teams.” 

Although everyone I have spoken to seems to be in favor of consolidation, many hope for a better option. Very real fears exist, such as concern that the commute will be too long for some new students, or that students with learning disabilities may fall behind in a larger school but keeping the budget cuts in mind, consolidation feels like the only plausible option for many people. We will hear the results of student surveys and the final decision of consolidation on November 18th.