Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) is facing approximately $495,000 in budget cuts due to California’s budget crisis. The cuts include reducing the number of small learning communities (houses) at the school from six to five.
When the School Board approved the house number’s reduction in June a plan had not yet been developed, but its implementation has now been accomplished.
The house system began in 2003 and its main feature is the organization of SAMOHI’s students into houses of approximately 550 students with 25 teachers, two advisors, and one outreach specialist per house. The house system’s purpose is to give students a more personalized education. Each house was named for a letter that was part of the abbreviation of the school’s name.
In an interview with the Mirror H House Principal Leslie Wells explained that the A House was chosen to be eliminated. Its House Principal, Wendy Gellis, will be taking a position at Malibu High School.
The students from the A house were placed in the M House and its teachers were dispersed throughout the school. Some of the M House’s students were transferred to other houses and they have already received letters about the change.
Each house was set up with two academic advisors so each student could stay with the same advisor for his or her entire high school career. The School Board decided not to reduce the number of advisors when the house was reduced because of the advisors’ importance to the students who will be seniors this fall. Seniors rely on their advisor to write their recommendations for their college applications. Now one of the M House advisors will only work with seniors and an advisor from the S House will be assigned to work with seniors and have other duties as well.
When the house system began many teachers had to move to new classrooms. Wells stated that there will be no changes in classrooms for at least a year.
Other reasons for reducing the number of houses were the decline in enrollment since the house system began and the projection that SAMOHI’s student enrollment will not increase significantly over the next six years.
Wells is also the high school’s Summer School Principal. He mentioned the school’s summer program is slightly smaller than past years and that the number of students enrolled is approximately 800.
As before, the program concentrates on remedial work. There is also a program for incoming 9th graders to help prepare them to take honors and advanced placement classes.