WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT reforming public education these days, it's wonderful to see a high school which is already blazing trails on its own. I dropped by the new campus of El Camino High School at Ventura College last week for a tour with Principal Kelsie Sims.
The four-year independent study public high school, formerly situated on Dean Drive, now shares its campus with Ventura College. Students can earn an associate degree while in high school without paying college tuition and enter a four-year university with considerable credits already completed. With the cost of a college education so high these days, El Camino High School's unique independent program makes good sense.
It's the only independent study high school located on a college campus which offers the full range of A-G series college prep courses and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Sims is the kind of principal every teen-ager wants. Young and energetic, she juggles multiple tasks with ease and keeps tabs on everyone with a motherly eye. While talking to a visitor about the school recently, she stopped mid-sentence to open her office window and call out a friendly greeting to a passing girl.
STUDENTS COME FROM all over the county and from neighboring Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, too. Many of the 300 enrolled are dynamic teens already busy making their mark on the world. "El Camino provides an opportunity to students to explore their passions and interests and still have it be a high school experience," Sims said.
There's the young woman who now ranks third in the world among female surfers; another is a competitive ice skater and one senior plays in a local symphony orchestra.
Students take classes at VC and also work one-on-one with a teacher. They have full access to college facilities such as the library. "All of my students are over there studying," Sims said. Many concurrently complete certificate programs in various disciplines.
Students also volunteer their time around the city. "I have a high school student in nearly every elementary school in the district," Sims said.
It's clear El Camino has figured out a way to meet the challenge of educating today's busy teens.
El Camino High School, located at 61 Day Rd. in Ventura, is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new campus at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5. For more information about the school, which is still accepting students, call (805) 289-7955.