Published Nov. 8, 2022
BY TERESA FRAHM
Serving students who don’t fit the mold of traditional high school, Carmel Valley High School, CUSD’s little-known alternative to CHS, is a hidden gem geared towards individualized education and academic flexibility.
Due to its low profile and small student body, which currently sits at 24 and fluctuates between 10 and 30 depending on the year, CVHS has been a largely overlooked asset within the district. In truth, it serves as a center of alternative learning and a continuation school for CUSD, allowing teens an opportunity to gain a high school diploma in a nontraditional setting.
“Generally, what a continuation of high school does is make sure a student has an opportunity to get a diploma,” says CVHS teaching principal Tom Parry, a former assistant principal at CHS. “That’s our first and foremost mission.”
The school champions a combination of personal support and individualized instruction to ensure a high graduation rate and an enriching learning environment. One-on-one relationships with teachers provide an additional level of support.
“It’s hard not to graduate when every teacher is watching you with the intention of you graduating,” says Brenda Buran, English teacher at CVHS. “There’s not a lot of falling through the cracks.”
The enrollment process for prospective students varies, but comes either through individual interest or a school referral. CHS assistant principal Craig Tuana serves as Carmel High School’s liaison with Carmel Valley.
“There are two usual processes,” Tuana explains. “One is a student who says, ‘Hey, I want to go to Carmel Valley.’ Another is, ‘Hey, you’re not doing well here, it’s not working, let’s look at Carmel Valley.’”
Though many students who enroll in CVHS do so to gain a more personally supportive academic environment, their backgrounds and objectives vary. While some seek a second chance at failed or missing courses, others come in pursuit of a flexible schedule or early graduation, taking advantage of Carmel Valley’s lower credit requirements. Many have full or part-time jobs and utilize a program in which students turn in pay stubs for credit.
“Students get to be a little bit more of the author of their own story,” Parry adds.
The paths of graduating seniors similarly diverge. While the majority of graduating CVHS students choose not to go directly to four-year colleges, many enroll at Monterey Peninsula College. Others proceed into the workforce directly after graduation, and still others are accepted into universities, previously including Humboldt State, Oregon State and Columbia University.
While academic and extracurricular opportunities at Carmel Valley High School present differently than they might at a traditional school, they are nonetheless prevalent. Students create an Individual Learning Plan upon arrival to personalize their education path and are offered dual-enrollment classes, school electives such as art, science and weightlifting, and opportunity to pursue their own interests in the form of elective projects, which are often counted towards graduation. While the school has no official sports teams, students are encouraged to join Carmel High School’s teams. Field trips and school-wide outdoor activities are similarly emphasized.
“Carmel Valley takes the time to teach you stuff,” former student TJ Linnevers says. “It prepares you for life, not just school.”
In terms of any confusion about their goals, the staff at Carmel Valley High School are working to spread awareness about their mission and the students they welcome.
“There’s a misconception of who we are and what we are and who we serve,” says Parry. “The students we have are smart and bright and motivated and wonderful. We are not full of a bunch of bad kids. We’re just full of some students who wanted something different and to learn a different way and who have different priorities for their life.”