What Happened to the VPA Pathway?


Dylan Collins, Writer

If you are a junior or senior at Nipomo High, you might remember the class talks as a freshman where it was explained that there were a variety of pathways to choose from, one of which being the visual and performing arts (VPA) pathway. It wasn’t until the 2017-2018 school year that we were told that this would no longer be a path at the school.
There was confusion, and students worried about how suddenly being without a pathway would affect them. Most of all there were students asking why? Why is the school getting rid of the VPA pathway?
In recent years there has been a decline in each of the VPA programs on campus.
The school used to have four periods of dance, two periods of dance one, one period of dance two, and one period of dance company or dance three. This year only the dance company class remains. This class is audition based, meaning that if a student wanted to dance and didn’t make the audition, there would be no class for them. “Because of  schedule demands and requirements, there’s fewer opportunities for kids to take elective classes that teach them life skills, and it’s sad to see them go,” said dance company teacher Christina Belo.
The theatre program has also been in decline because less and less students are signing up for classes, and this year’s theatre teacher Robyn Metchik can only teach one after school class. The program used to have an intro to theatre class, a technical theatre class, and a performance study class. Now there’s only an after school theatre class. There used to be far more students willing to be in the class “One year we opened with 96 kids in the class, that’s 10% of the campus,” said Eric Guisinger, who has worked with the NHS theatre department for many years.
The music department has done away with their beginners’ classes. They used to offer guitar and piano beginner’s  classes. Now students who are new to music don’t have an opportunity to learn an instrument at school. NHS also had an AP music theory class for students who wanted an opportunity to get college credit for studying music. “We used to have five or six music classes, and we still had a waiting list,” said Robyn Metchik. Thomas Apel, a VPA student and the assistant band director says that “There are fewer classes this year because the administration felt that there weren’t enough students involved in the other music programs [like choir and AP music theory] to justify department spending.”
One of the reasons for the arts classes being cut is because students don’t sign up for many elective classes because their schedules are full of academic and required classes. Some think that classes are cut simply because the school didn’t replace the teacher. “If somebody leaves, oh well, it’s gone,” Metchik said.
One group of teachers are really sticking to the LMUSD motto “our kids first” by attempting to change the schedule by adding a 7th period. The days would be the same length, just with one more class. “Hopeful this new schedule will be solidified by winter break,” said Nathan Shields, one of the teachers who is a strong advocate for the change. If the new schedule is confirmed, it will take effect during the 2019-2020 school year. This change will likely free up students’ schedules, so that they could take more extracurricular classes if they want.
Most students want the extra period. “It would help a lot to fulfill requirements as well as fitting in those electives that keep us coming to school every day,” said senior class president Taylor Robertson.
“I’m fine with a seventh period. I’m already in a seventh period, drama, so I already experience this,” said Cameron Porter a long time VPA student.
Some students are afraid that adding another class will just add to the already substantial workload. NHS student Brendan Collins said it “sounds like more homework to me.”
Even if the new schedule is approved, it is still unlikely that we will get the VPA pathway back. Kaitie Salcido, the district’s pathway advisor, explained how the pathway system worked: Career technical education (CTE) pathways are the official pathways that are recognized by the state. The goal of the CTE program is to prepare students for high paying jobs appropriate for their local economy. The CTE pathway classes must also be taught by a CTE certified teacher.
Originally, the school was misinformed about pathway requirements. This was a result of a miscommunication between the school administration and Nancy Miller, the previous LMUSD Director of Career and Technical Education. NHS created pathways which aligned with courses that they offered, not knowing that they would not meet the CTE requirements; the VPA pathway was one of these. Once the administration realized that the VPA pathway did not meet the CTE requirements, the school eliminated it.
Since the CTE pathways are based off of “local economic needs,” our school is left with mostly agriculture based pathways. “Local economic needs” must be specific to our region, which doesn’t have much in the way of other types of careers. This is beneficial for some students, but not all.
It is possible to make a theatre pathway because a local need is created by having the PCPA close by; all we would need is a CTE certified teacher and students to attend the minimum of three classes needed to create a pathway. Unfortunately,this would not include music and visual arts. Despite there being art and music on the central coast; the state of California does not consider art and music to be high income technical jobs, according to Kaitie Salcido.