August 29, 2008

Freshmen Will Find Changes at Muir High School

By Caroline An

PASADENA - With one week to go before the start of school, parents and students attended John Muir High School's Freshman Orientation on Thursday to get a glimpse of the major changes implemented at the school.

For Cicely Buggs, a Muir alumna, this was an opportunity to share her memories from high school with her daughter, Jeh Kirby, an incoming ninth-grader.

"I had a great time in high school. This is my daughter's home high school," said Buggs, who graduated in 1991. "It was right after my year that the troubles started."

Her daughter Jeh admitted to "looking forward to high school forever" and said her classmates at Norma Coombs had a positive view of Muir.

In addition to picking up class schedules and signing up for after-school activities, parents and students could also go on a 20- minute school tour to become familiar with the campus.

Last year, district leaders decided to completely revamp the high school to avoid a possible state takeover of Muir; for four years the school has posted low Academic Performance Index scores, the state's main measure of school performance.

The restructuring plans call for students in the 10th through 12th grades to be enrolled in the academies for arts, media and entertainment, business and entrepreneurship, engineering and environmental sciences.

Ninth-graders will automatically be enrolled in the Freshman Success Academy where they will be taught study skills and given additional help in the subjects they are struggling with. Smaller class sizes and 90-minute blocks for math and English are among the changes.

Jennifer Smith, the Freshman Success Academy's assistant principal, said there will be a focus on helping students adjust socially and emotionally to high school. She called it a period "fraught with challenges."

At 425 students, this year's freshman class is larger than projected; for many in attendance, the orientation quelled any concerns about the school's new format.

Annette Daniels is enrolling her fourth child, her son Arlondo, at Muir and said her three older children received a "fine education and all went on to college."

"School is what you make of it," Daniels said.

Some parents said they support the reinvention effort and hope it will bring positive changes for the students.

"I have had some time to review the changes and I say let's do it," Buggs said.

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