Santa Barbara native Maren Schiffer graduated from both Washington Elementary and Santa Barbara Junior High before moving onto Santa Barbara High School, where she is currently in her senior year. She’s also been involved with music for the majority of her childhood, and is now co-manager of the SBHS Madrigal Singers and A Capella Choir. In “High School Traffic,” Maren will detail the perils and pleasures of the schooling life as she prepares for graduation this coming June.
As students push their way through the crowded main hall, the small and unlucky ones are practically thrown against walls in the mobbish attempt to get to class. A bouncer is placed at the door of the counseling office, trying desperately to send kids away – but at least half the school has an unworkable schedule. About 150 students have shown up unexpected and un-enrolled. Welcome back to Santa Barbara High School!
Yet the chaos that occurred on this year’s opening week is no fault of the school’s. School budget cuts left an indelible mark, especially as the number of students has grown. With fewer teachers and less money, adjustments are necessary.
The counseling office is perhaps the center of it all. Last year’s seven counselors have been reduced to four, meaning each counselor advises one-fourth of the student body. Yet it has been especially difficult to form student schedules considering the dozens of classes that filled too fast, and the handful that have been cancelled, re-opened, moved around, or just dropped. So to compensate, the administration was very recently able to hire two new counselors.
The first few days, my AP English Literature class held 53 people, exceeding the limit of 35 and forcing the school to open another segment of the class. Courses such as Honors Physics and Government shared similar problems.
In some cases students have refused changes. The AP U.S. History class was cut in order to open a class of Honors Government. However, ex-students and prospective students held a meeting with the principal, notified parents, and even formed a Facebook group to bring it back. The uproar eventually led to the return of the class.
But as the end of the fourth week approaches, routine finally settles in. Class sizes are evening out, schedules are becoming more permanent, and students are switching from complaining about inconveniences to complaining about the overabundance of homework – a great sign in disguise. In crisis, a central public high school is left to test its strength with little outside help. And it may just succeed. AP classes are full and busy and music and arts are still standing. The independence required by students, the resilient teachers, and the liveliness of the student body make a public high school completely worth it, apparently.