Seniors in overcrowded 3rd period culinary class (Photo: Katrina Gorauskas, The Puma Prensa)
by Katrina Gorauskas, staff writer
Maria Carrillo High School students look forward to the freedom of senior year when they can finally get the desired free periods. Students often take heavier schedules and junior college classes, so they then have the credits required to take fewer classes during their final year. What students usually do not realize is that the Santa Rosa City Schools district differs from California regulations and does not allow seniors to have more than one free period.
Maria Carrillo counselor Ellisa Beamish said, “[Seniors] have to take at least four [classes] on campus, but then they can only have one free period. They could do a JC [junior college] period, a free period, and then four classes on campus. However, we always encourage them obviously to take as many classes as they can, because we want to get them exposure to different classes. We also know that students want to get ahead on college credits. I see why students want [free periods] because it could help them with internships and jobs, but I say take as many classes as you can.” JC periods are when a student can take a class at the Santa Rosa Junior College in replacement of a class on campus.
Often students have more than enough credits to obtain multiple free periods, but MCHS, as part of SRCS, requires seniors to have five classes total. Max Adams, a senior at MCHS, is taking five classes with one free period this year, but three of them are electives. “I am taking sports medicine, culinary, and weight training,” Adams said, adding about his schedule, “You have more time to do homework for school and have more time [for] other stuff.” He knew that he wanted to have at least one free period this year.
Beamish said, “[A benefit to taking more classes] is to get exposure to all the elective classes, science classes… everything we have here on campus. We have a good array of choices, and if students are not sure what they want to do… they might find something that interests them for a possible career.”
Within the district, the rules vary slightly because of case-by-case exceptions and different programs within each school. MCHS Vice Principal Amy Weise said, “Some of the exceptions are independent study where [students] might take just two classes on campus [or] some students have a medical 504 [formal plans that schools develop to give kids with disabilities the support they need].”
Piner High School slightly differs from other SRCS schools because they have a special Early College Magnet program that allows juniors to only take five total classes. Nicole Cancilla-Kopf, the college and career counselor at Piner High School, said, “The requirements for the ECM program is that [students] will take a JC class each semester of their junior and senior year.” Piner juniors and seniors can either take off first and second period or fifth and sixth in order to have room in their schedule for a JC class. Instead of having to take one JC class per open period on campus like MCHS, upperclassmen at Piner in the EMC program can take off two on-campus classes per semester and only have to take one JC class as a replacement.
Sarah Tait, a senior at Piner high school, is a part of the ECM program and is currently taking five classes including a JC class. She said, “I have taken one JC class each semester of my junior and senior year. I have only had four classes [on campus] at Piner since junior year and one at the JC each semester for a total of five classes per semester.” Tait still has to be on campus for four periods to stay in line with the state requirement. As a senior in the EMC program, Tait’s schedule looks the same as an MCHS senior who decided to take a JC class along with a free period. The only difference between Piner and MCHS is that as a junior, Tait only took five classes total each semester because of the special EMC program that Piner offers.
All public schools receive funding for every class that students take. Weise stated, “You have to take four [classes on campus], because you have to have a certain number of instructional minutes on campus for it to be considered ADA, the average daily allowance for attendance that we get paid from the federal government to pay for school. Each child gets a certain amount of money sent to the district for being in school to help pay for everything.” For the 2019-2020 school year SRCS received $13,409.33 of ADA funding per student. When asked about ADA, Beamish agreed that she thinks the funding plays into requiring seniors to take five classes.
SRCS differs from California state requirements when it comes to graduation credit requirements as well. “You have to graduate with 220 credits versus the state of California is 150 credits,” according to Weise. At MCHS, Beamish said that juniors cannot have free periods, but they can take JC courses and as a consequence have fewer classes on campus. The state of California has fewer restrictions than the SCRS district for upperclassmen. Outside of the district, juniors only have to take five periods; seniors only have to take four periods total, as long as those classes are on campus. Rancho Cotate in Rohnert Park allows seniors to have two rather than only one free period. Senior Keyonee Neal said, “Juniors are allowed free periods and a lot of them have one. I actually love [having multiple free periods]. Katie Penberthy, a junior at Hart High School in Santa Clarita in Southern California, said, “The minimum amount of classes a senior can take is four [at my school]. I am a junior and I have periods one through five and an open sixth and seventh.”
SRCS has stricter requirements compared to the state of California in terms of free periods and credits for graduation. None of the high schools within the SRCS district allow more than one free period unless the student has special circumstances, regardless of credits accumulated. Counselors in the SRCS district highly encourage students to earn college credit instead through the JC or take advantage of the great classes on campus as an introduction to potential careers.