By Jonathan Hernandez
Claudia Ruiz arrived at College of the Canyons 7:50 a.m.one recent weekday for the beginning of a final exam. Her Math 070 final is first on her list of an arduous schedule that comes along with the concluding weeks of a college semester. After she’s out of math, Claudia is tasked with completing yet another final for her dance appreciation class. Two classes out of the way, she begins to rigorously study for an hour.
It’s not even past noon yet, and Claudia has to make the walk to the University Center from the cafeteria where more classes await her, although, they’re not COC classes. Not only does Claudia have to worry about her college finals this week, she also has to stress about her upcoming high school ones as well.
Enrolled in high school and community college, Claudia Ruiz is a sophomore at Academy of the Canyons, a public middle-college high school located at the University Center where students have the opportunity to earn transferable college units through COC along with a diploma.
“AOC is different. It’s not your typical high school experience. It really opens a lot of doors to success. I want to major in psychology and this is helping me realize the value and cost of education” says Ruiz.
Just under 400, the small population of AOC students at COC has a larger workload than your typical high school student. The high school is a great place for students who take a priority in their education, and being a public institution, it is an even greater benefit to the Santa Clarita community.
Recently, the AOC curriculum’s functionality was in serious risk. COC’s financial climate was already limiting the number of classes, class sizes, and staffing. For a high school that works directly with the college, AOC would undoubtedly feel the consequence of the lack of educational funding in the state sooner than later.
The passage of Proposition 30, a tax measure that increases funding to K-12 schools, means that school district budgets across the state are safe from $5.4 billion in cuts originally scheduled to take place. Community colleges in the state will also receive some funding and for AOC, which delves into both spectrums of recipients for funding in the tax measure, the passage of Proposition 30 couldn’t be more welcomed.
Academy of the Canyon’s principal, Jill Shenberger, was glad about the tax measure’s passage and the benefits it would have on the school that belongs to the William S. Hart Union High School District. Not unique in terms of district funding, AOC will reap the benefits of the Hart district that includes not losing any teachers or programs.
“Staffing would have been the biggest impact for us had [the district] had to go in that direction. If they had to limit hiring, for example, when teachers retired, they wouldn’t hire new. Teachers have been working with greater number of furlough days than they’ve had in the past. There’s also been talk about reinstating some of that but that is not definite at all,” said Shenberger.
“As far as the community college goes, that’s really where we were concerned. If [Proposition 30] hadn’t passed and the cuts the community college was talking about making would’ve had a direct negative impact on AOC. Classes would’ve been cut and we wouldn’t be able to get our kids into classes.
“One of the things they were discussing was doing away with priority registration that AOC students get now. If that went away, I don’t know how we would run our program because our students need particular classes in order to graduate so that’s a real benefit that it passed and we’re not having to worry about that.
“Re-lengthening the school year and going back to 180 days of instruction is another possible benefit, we think, of it passing. Kids don’t necessarily think that, but we do, but whether that’s going to happen or not, some of that is contractual and needs to be negotiated with the union.”
College courses through AOC are available tuition-free because the high school is primarily grant funded through work with the community college. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office grant is the main source of funding for AOC, while the staff and teachers are paid by the Hart district.
With the passage of Proposition 30, the CCCCO grant will award community colleges like COC with $210 in additional funds in 2012-2013. Most of the money would go towards deferred funding commitments by the state to colleges, but ultimately allows room for up to 20,000 additional students and approximately 3,300 classes to the community colleges across the state.
“We’re really lucky COC is great to work with for us and I know that they think about us when it comes to changes happening and cuts going on and how it’s going to affect the middle college,” said Shenberger. “It’s a big partnership and I’m confident that they are aware of what we need and they work really hard to help us.”
After her COC finals are done, Claudia still has another week left in the semester of high school finals. An essay due for English and two exams for chemistry and modern civilization respectively will keep her busy studying, but Claudia sees the remainder of the semester as a challenge she’s ready to take on.
“I’m relieved that finals are almost over and I don’t have to study as much, but I’m also proud of all the learning I’ve done this past semester,” said Ruiz. “I’m proud that I pushed myself, but AOC really was behind my motivation. The teachers really got the point across that our future depends on how serious we take our schooling right now.”