Plans for replacing the El Puente Community School, which closed in June, are quickly evolving. The Santa Barbara school district is instituting new satellite campuses of Alta Vista Alternative High School that will be referred to as the Quetzal program. They will be located at the Community Action Commission offices in Goleta, La Colina Junior High (for special ed students), The Westside Community Center, and La Casa de la Raza. Truants, expelled students, and those returning from Los Prietos Boys Camp will be eligible to attend.

The Quetzal is a bird — the national bird of Guatemala — that in Central American mythology cannot be caged or it will die. Frann Wageneck, the principal of La Cuesta and Alta Vista High Schools, said she chose the name because it symbolizes freedom and liberty, and because the mascots of the two alternative schools are already birds.

The curriculum will be a blend between online courses, face-to-face teaching, and project-based learning that will entail quarter-long undertakings. “Blended learning gives us a way to give students the individual program they need,” said Wageneck at the Tuesday school board meeting.

She also plans on tying in several career technical opportunities for students. There will be a culinary academy at the Westside location. Along with the “Sweet Start” beekeeping program at La Cuesta, other programs that are less set in stone include media arts, raised bed gardening, mural projects, and partners in education internships. Wageneck is working on establishing a film production internship with SBTV and would like to eventually tie that into a media arts program on the Eastside.

Each location will require 12-15 students to garner enough state money to stay in the black, said Wageneck. Currently 17 students have enrolled for the Quetzal options, and the district is meeting with several families this week.

As far as staffing goes, the new Quetzal campuses will employ one assistant principal, three full time general education teachers, one special education teacher, one school psychologist, a half-time clerical position, and a counselor. “It’s exciting,” said Wagoneck. “Alternative ed is the future of education. … It’s a game changer in the way we approach learning.”


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