Small high school seeks accreditation |

Small high school seeks accreditation

by Jo Rafferty

A small high school is hoping for big news.

Last week, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges examined Woodfords High School and in two or three weeks the association will let school officials know if it will be approved for accreditation.

Approval validates the school’s integrity, according to the organization’s Web site.

“It’s designed to provide credibility of the school,” said Alpine County Superintendent Jim Parsons. “They look at everything at the school.”

The association looks at whether Woodfords High is meeting expected schoolwide learning results, which assures college recognition of the high school.

The accreditation process began two years ago, and since then Woodfords High School has made changes to meet the association’s recommendations.

Eight teenage boys and one girl occupy seats this year at Woodfords High School, an alternative public school offered to residents of Alpine County.

Three students, who have attended the small high school since their freshman year, will graduate in June.

“I’ve been going here all four years,” said Vito Neaves, 19, a senior at Woodfords High. “It’s a lot better than a big school for me. You know everyone in the school.”

Neaves said he is considering joining the Navy after graduation, and is interested in video animation.

He worked on a Grovers Hot Springs State Park mapping project last year that won an award at the Western Regional Environmental and Spacial Technology Conference. In California, 26 schools are involved in the environmental and spacial technology program and nationwide there are more than 200.

This year the school earned a superior environmental and spacial technology award.

Woodfords High School is located on the edge of a softball field off Hawkside Drive in Woodfords, Calif., down a dirt road and around the bend from Diamond Valley School.

“I would say the school has been absolutely successful,” said Joe Voss, one of two teachers at the school. Voss teaches social studies, language arts and electives to the ninth- through 12th-graders.

Voss said every student who has attended the school has graduated, except those who have moved away.

In its sixth year, Woodfords High School has had an average of 10 students each year.

The school was first created to accommodate homeschooled children who live in the rural area, according to Parsons.

“We get kids from special circumstances,” said Parsons. “This school originally started because we had homeschooled students. They go down to a larger school and some personalities get lost.”

Woodfords High School was originally funded with a grant for $250,000 provided by the Environmental and Spacial Technology Initiative, according to Voss.

Students at the school now are able to work on sophisticated hard and software purchased with those funds, such as geographic information systems, computer animation, imaging and computer-assisted drafting programs.

“It’s more of an educational philosophy,” said Voss. “It’s community-based, project-oriented learning. Students go out into the community to find problems to solve.

“The focus is real-life experience. Students meet with members of the community and accomplish deadlines while working with professionals. Essentially they’re responsible for developing a project. We’re responsible for helping them with it.”

Some students are working with agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Alpine Watershed group, the California State Parks system and the Washoe Tribe, said Joel Tabor, math, science and electives teacher.

The school lacks a sports program and band, although it does require physical education, according to Tabor.

“We have the same content standards as at a regular school,” said Tabor. “We don’t have band and football, but we’ve got a lot.”

Grading at Woodfords High is more individual than at conventional schools.

“We grade on how well their personal growth is developing, which is difficult to do,” said Tabor.

There are other benefits to attending a small school, including last year’s field trip to Bodie, Calif. This year they are planning a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Yosemite.

“I think one of the things we talk about a lot is the individual attention the students get here is second to none,” said Voss. “We understand them as people, teach them what fits their interests. It’s almost impossible to fall through the cracks here.”

Josh Horse, 14, a ninth-grader, said he requested to transfer to Woodfords High this semester from Pau Wa Lu Middle School.

Carey Galvez, 16, an 11th-grader, moved from Douglas High School this year. He said he has mixed feelings about being at such a small school.

“I like it because I can pass and graduate, but I don’t like it because there are no new people to meet,” he said.

Galvez has been creating maps for Kirkwood Resort’s ski patrol for two or three months.

Caleb Knapp, 15, is in 10th grade at Woodfords High School. He said he enjoys working with a computer designing program.

“I’m not too fond of big schools. It’s just too crowded,” Knapp said.

Satori Ivy, 17, an 11th-grader, is in his third year at Woodfords High after transferring from Douglas High School.

He said after working with the animation software at school, he is considering going to film school or an art college for graphic arts.

“I love technology. I used to be bad at computer stuff. Now it’s my favorite,” said Ivy. “I wouldn’t mind going to a larger high school.

“I don’t know if I’d do as well. Everyone here is friends with everyone else.”

— Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 213.