Illustration by Maya San Diego
The 2018-2019 school year marks the first year of the Universal Ninth Grade program (U9), and the beginning of the end of small learning community stereotypes. Berkeley High School has struggled with generalizations associated with small learning communities (SLC) ever since they began, and the U9 program hopes to correct some of these inaccurate assumptions.
The new system puts all ninth graders in one universal school, separated into core “hives” where students can form relationships with their teachers and peers, while also learning in depth about the each SLC in preparation for when they rank the SLCs towards the end of the year.
This replaces the flawed former system where eighth grade students would make decisions before setting foot at BHS, leaving them to choose based on minimal information and stereotypes heard from others. Over the course of the year, students find the generalizations surrounding small schools are frequently misconceptions.
While some of the reputations associated with the different SLCs can be based in someone’s truth, they fail to accurately represent the whole group of people, and in that way, fail to help students make an informed decision about which learning community is right for them.
Hasmig Minassian, former CAS teacher, U9 Ethnic Studies teacher and Growth Hive leader, has been involved in the process since its genesis in 2015, and is pleased with how it is working out so far. “We have had a very positive and strong launch,” Minassian said. “Students seem excited to be in their hives and see familiar faces all throughout the day.”
This observation is echoed by Raquel Matthews, a freshman in Growth Hive, who noticed, “the hives are like little communities.”
According to Minassian, ninth graders will get workshops and exposure to all of the SLCs beginning in early winter, as well as analyzing the differences and similarities between the five options. These in-class activities, combined with interactions with older students in different SLCs, will inevitably prepare students to make a more educated decision when it comes to picking a SLC. Students will give thought to all of their choices, and not discount any options based on rumors and reputations.
Only time will tell how the U9 will affect BHS in the future, but in the meantime, SLC stereotypes will hopefully dissipate and fade to create a more unified BHS.