SCHS introduced the Horizon program this 2020-2021 school year to aid some incoming freshmen as they transition into high school. Students in the program take three mainstream classes and three Horizon classes, which have fewer students than the mainstream ones.
“When you start ninth grade, no one is behind on credits. Everybody is the same, so the idea is to get out in front of it and make sure that nobody gets left behind,” Horizon teacher Brad Langstaff said.
According to Principal Gregory Shelby, Horizon was introduced to SCHS due to its student population.
“One of the things I’ve always been so proud of in this school is that we tend to be much more inclusive and accepting than most high schools,” Shelby said. “We’re not perfect and no school is, but when we have visitors that come to our school they talk about how our students are kinder to each other than most places they see, that our students open doors for each other, that our students seem to embrace our diversity both racially and ethnically as well as various kinds of backgrounds, that’s something that makes me love this school so much. It’s why I think that a program like this will succeed here.”
A student is placed into the Horizon program by family choice, based on their middle school counselor’s recommendation and the approval of their SCHS counselor.
“People are recommended for all different kinds of reasons, but the common denominator is they were not really thriving in middle school, and we want to make sure they do well in high school,” Langstaff said.
The three required Horizon classes are math, history and freshman foundations. Freshman foundations includes a curriculum centered around providing students with helpful skills, such as writing, research and other high school fundamentals. The other three traditional classes are English, physical education and a language, or elective of the student’s choosing.
Horizon is an academic program, and students can participate in sports, clubs, and other SCHS extracurricular activities. It is centered around community building, Langstaff said, but distance learning has posed a challenge. Langstaff believes distance learning is less effective than in-person learning. Online school also causes students to spend far more time on their screens. Despite the downsides, Langstaff understands why distance learning is necessary and is prepared to make the best of it.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s what we have, and I think Santa Clara does a good job of making it work,” Langstaff said. “But I think all of us would like to get back to normal.”
According to Shelby, distance learning poses challenges for many students, but students in the Horizon program who benefit from extra support even during in-person learning are fortunate to have these classes available.
“One thing I can say is, in the absence of support like that being provided by Mr. Langstaff, a lot of the students in this program may have already stopped attending (online classes), but they haven’t,” Shelby said. “They are continuing to attend, continuing to participate, and I think that may be an early sign of success for this program.”
The Horizon program, according to Langstaff, is not something to be looked down on. Rather, Horizon is meant to get students on the right track.
“I just don’t want to make it like it’s a bad thing to be in it,” Langtsaff said. “It’s just an opportunity to get some extra ideas, and we have a really great group this year.”