Freshman choose small schools following  SLC presentations

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, Berkeley High School freshmen selected their Small Learning Communities after a month of in-class SLC presentations, which began in mid-January.

Illustration of a teenager standing on a road splitting into to three different paths, each being a different small school

Anisha Pinto

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, Berkeley High School freshmen selected their Small Learning Communities (SLCs) after a month of in-class SLC presentations, which began in mid-January. The SLCs include Academic Choice (AC), Berkeley International High School (BIHS), Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), the Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), and the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS).

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, BHS freshmen attended an informational assembly about SLCs led by student and teacher presenters. According to Amelia Stern, a freshman at BHS, the assembly focused on the principles and values of each school, as well as the required and available courses. It also gave freshmen an opportunity to hear from upperclassmen about their experiences in the different learning communities. There was also an informational video about SLCs sent to the families of BHS freshmen. 

“One thing that I don’t really know a lot about is the workload of each school for your sophomore year, … and that would be nice to know more about,” said Stern.

      In addition to the Universal 9th Grade (U9) assembly, U9 teachers have been providing basic information to students about the curriculum and communities of the SLCs. Some classes also had student presenters come to their classrooms to further discuss them. 

“I think a lot of the presentations cover a lot of the same information, and for me, it’s just more helpful to talk to someone that’s an older student that has had more experience being in one of the SLCs, versus a teacher that is just kind of stating the basic facts,” said Jackie Gillooly, a freshman at BHS.

According to Stern, part of her SLC decision has been based on input from upperclassmen friends, although she has tried to prevent her fellow freshmen friends’ decisions from influencing her choice.

“I know that if I choose a small school because (my friends are) in it, it’s not gonna really accommodate my interests,” said Stern. 

Lila Rodet, a freshman at BHS, considered ranking AC, CAS, and BIHS, but was hesitant about the small size of CAS and the rigor of the BIHS curriculum. AC appeals to her because of the ability to have more electives in her schedule, as well as the option to take  a variety of classes. 

Maia Astera is a freshman at BHS who is primarily interested in BIHS because she has heard that it is appealing to colleges. She also discussed her parents’ desire for her to choose BIHS due to the path that it may lay out for students and the challenges that the classes provide.

Freshman Emma Candler said that her knowledge of BHS’s SLCs mainly comes from upperclassmen, including her sister who is currently a senior. 

“My top is AC because I’m really interested in (it, and) I want to take an art class and Spanish class and also extracurriculars. So I don’t want to be overwhelmed with the IB (BIHS) workload,” said Candler. 

Multiple freshmen explained that they felt they didn’t have enough information about the SLCs to make a fully informed decision.

“I think it (has) definitely been a little stressful in the sense that … you know what they stand for, but a lot of people, that’s all they know really about them. And so they choose it off like, ‘Oh, Academic Choice I get to choose,’ but they don’t know what the workload is going to be like,” said Stern.