The names of the students and parents in the Hoover High School classes included Guerrero, Gearhart, Pham, Hubbard and Lewis--Latino, white, Asian and black--reflecting the ethnic diversity of the school's East San Diego neighborhood.
They were scattered among courses in computing, Chinese language and culture, clay-making, holiday crafts and photography. All of the studying was voluntary and taking place on a Saturday morning.
Welcome to a unique effort by Hoover to turn one of the city's oldest high schools into a community center for the diverse population surrounding it. Now into its second month, the project offers an eclectic mix of free monthlong Saturday courses for Hoover students, their parents, students and parents from Wilson Middle School, and fourth- and fifth-graders and their parents in the seven elementary schools that feed into Wilson and Hoover.
Already, upwards of 150 people stream onto the campus each Saturday beginning at 8 a.m., an hour before classes even begin. The initial turnouts have raised the expectations of Principal Doris Alvarez that she and her staff can generate in one of San Diego's most ethnically mixed and transient neighborhoods a loyalty and enthusiasm toward Hoover as an important educational resource.
"Our long-range hope is to have Hoover become the hub of a lot of activities," Alvarez said. Those would include not only various classes but weekend sports activities as well, such as community Pop Warner football. In addition, another long-range goal is to stem the district's high dropout rate of almost one out of every three students between the ninth and 12th grades.
Hoover is the district's only high school designated as an ABC (Already Balanced Community) school, meaning that its resident enrollment reflects within 10% the district's overall ethnic makeup and that the school does not use voluntary busing or special magnet programs to balance the ethnic makeup with students outside the neighborhood.
"The idea is a fantastic one to get schools to meet community needs," said Gene Ernst, principal at Euclid Elementary, one of the feeder schools.
"We're trying to keep the school balanced, to keep students from choosing to shift to (special programs) elsewhere in the district, to generate positive feelings toward Hoover so that kids and their parents will feel good about Hoover and want to come here," Alvarez said.
Barbara Shaw, coordinator for the Saturday project, added, "By offering enrichment classes that students normally don't have a chance to take in a daily program, we want to keep our majority (white) students from going to a magnet school and keep our non-majority kids from joining voluntary busing to (a majority population) school (with an image of being better)."
Last year, principals from the Hoover schools cluster began parenting classes for parents with children in the various schools. Those classes are continuing this year.
"The principals in the Hoover cluster work well together and look upon themselves as one community so the ground was ripe for some kind of move such as the Saturday project," said Eloise Cisneros, assistant superintendent who oversees the Hoover area. "And this idea is a tremendous concept because it is not punitive like Saturday schools have been in the past."
ABC schools such as Hoover tend to include neighborhoods with large numbers of rental properties because minority groups tend not to be able to afford homes as easily, and they tend to have a higher percentage of single-family parents than the school district average, a district report said.
Encouragement for Parents
By encouraging parents to come as well--there is a computer class just for parents--the school wants to show that learning continues for life, not just between kindergarten and 12th grade or college.
More than $100,000 in special ABC funds provided by the school district officials helps pay for the program. The Hoover parent-teacher organization sells refreshments during a 15-minute social break. Alvarez hopes that as word of the Saturday program spreads, she will be able to tap the resources of San Diego State University and IBM, both institutions that sponsor Hoover under the business-education partnership program.
Last Saturday, Hoover offered the first of two weeks of two computing courses for fourth- and fifth-graders, one for parents, and clay making, holiday crafts and Chinese for sixth- through 12th-graders and their parents.
Wilson seventh-grade chums Tony Guerrerro, Santiago Covarrubias and Jose Ibarra had taken computing last month--although the course is intended primarily for elementary school students--and showed up Saturday for clay-making. Tony brought along his brother Juan Carlos--"I was named for the King of Spain," he said--and Santiago convinced his brother Eduardo to come this month.
Signed Up for Computing
Juan Carlos and Eduardo, both fifth-graders at Euclid Elementary, signed up for computing.