PUSD addresses counseling woes

Jerri Neilsen came to the school board meeting July 12 to alert the district to a problem her college-bound daughter has had in meeting college entrance requirements prior to high school graduation.

Neilsen’s daughter, Katelyn, a 10th-grader at Chester High School, needs to take calculus before graduating from high school. This is necessary, because calculus is required for entrance into many science programs at many colleges.

However, Integrated Pathway Mathematics I was the only option available to Katelyn when she started high school. she had already taken algebra and many of the other components of Mathematics 1.

Neilsen said that her daughter should have been offered Integrated Pathway Mathematics II.

Neilsen said, “I want to make sure we don’t have other students getting caught up in this situation and being left behind.”

Dwight Pierson, board member, acknowledged that Neilsen had brought up a legitimate point.

Options for courses not offered

Katelyn is making up for not having the opportunity to take Mathematics II when she first entered high school by taking a calculus course online.

District students can currently take courses not offered at their schools through Apex Learning online.

High school students can also take courses at FRC, Lassen Community College or other colleges in person or online. Patty McCutcheon, assistant to the superintendent, in a separate interview, said that some high school students complete almost a year of college before they graduate from high school.

McCutcheon also said that the district is working to increase opportunities for students to do independent study projects for school credit.

Board member Traci Holt, said that the district should look at additional options for how students can take courses that their campuses can’t offer.

Scheduled time with counselors

Holt said that she had observed that a lot of parents aren’t present with their kids on school registration night.

Pierson said that in his opinion, every student should have an “individualized education program or plan” tailored to their interests and career objectives.

Individualized education programs are mandated by federal and state law for special education students, with parents being critically involved in the process.

At the very least, Pierson said each parent should be designated a certain amount of time with a school counselor.

Holt agreed, arguing that each parent should be told on parent-teacher night that they have a scheduled time to meet with a school counselor.

The district has a grid that spells out entry requirements for California community colleges, state universities and the University of California.

Superintendent Terry Oestreich said that the matrix should be presented to parents repeatedly every year. McCutcheon said that the district is working to make the matrix, and other college-related information, available on Facebook, other social media and in as many other ways as possible.

Last minute transfers to PUSD

Holt wanted the board to clarify its policy toward students who transfer to PUSD at the end of their senior year. In particular, in regards to students who have not taken Business and Finance, which includes the senior project and is required for graduation.

Holt brought up the case of a student who wanted to transfer to Chester High School a month before school was out during that student’s senior year. That student hadn’t taken Business and Finance, but needed to graduate before June 30 in order to meet the deadline for a scholarship.

Leslie Edlund, board president, said that the district needed a policy for when transfer students can graduate or walk at high school graduation.

Holt noted that the board didn’t want students leaving PUSD and then returning to PUSD just before graduation in order to avoid the Business and Finances requirement. She noted that this has happened in the past.

Pierson agreed, but said the district should offer reasonable accommodation, including taking coursework online, when the situation was out of a student’s control.

Holt said she would work with the district to draft a transfer and graduation policy for later discussion and possible adoption by the board.

Doing away with bus fares

The district decided at an earlier meeting to do away with bus fares.

School districts are not required to offer bus service for students from home to school. However, if districts do offer bus service, they are required to offer free or reduced fares to those who can’t afford to pay.

McCutcheon said that, due to reduced enrollment, the district now has more room on its buses than it had before and has consolidated its bus lines to save money.

McCutcheon said the district will review the free bus policy next year to see how it has affected parents and school enrollment.

Free admittance for senior citizens

Pierson suggested that the district consider offering free admission to games and other school events to senior citizens. The purpose would be to increase senior citizen voluntary participation in area schools.