Because the first year of high school is considered crucial to a student’s success, more campuses are sheltering freshmen in small learning communities or sometimes on separate campuses.
As Jessica McClain, 14, stood in line to get her student ID picture taken on her first official day as a Muir High School student, she was a churning mix of anticipation and anxiety.
“The campus is huge,” a wide-eyed McClain said as she looked at hundreds of freshmen lined up in the school’s cavernous gymnasium. “I am excited, but I’m nervous. New school. Bigger school. Bigger people.”
But for McClain, freshman year will be a more intimate experience than for earlier generations. Ninth grade is crucial to a student’s eventual academic success, so secondary schools across the nation, including Pasadena’s Muir High, are increasingly sheltering their freshmen in small learning communities or sometimes on separate campuses.
“We really wanted to make sure our freshmen have a strong, solid foundation and are able to bond with the school,” said Edwin Diaz, superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District. “If they don’t connect well in ninth grade, they tend to disappear in 10th. A high percentage drop out.”