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Friday, November 2, 2012

Fort Collins High School - Report

Today Bit Boy and I went to visit Fort Collins High School.  Bit Boy was less than enthused.  He already has his heart set on Colorado Early College Fort Collins.  As a parent, I agree that CEC looks like a good fit for him, but I want him to see the choice he's making.  It's not really a choice if you just pick the first thing you see, is it?  Well, maybe it is, but I still want him to have an idea of what's out there.  I'd rather not hear 3 years down the road "I would have liked xyz, if only I had known about it".  Also, if CEC doesn't work for some reason, I want him to know that there are good alternatives out there.  (Including homeschooling straight to college, but right now we're focusing on high school because that's what he's wanting.)

First we met with a councilor who sat down with us and explained the curriculum and the requirements for graduation.  Bit Boy is "9th" grade at Sunday school, and all over the map academically, but if he goes to high school full time next year with graduation as a goal, he'll have to start as a freshman (9th grader). (Never mind that if we continued homeschooling he'd be ready for college level work with in a few months...  don't get me going about institutional bureaucracy.)  She was kind and helpful, explaining the rational behind their requirements, and ways to work around his asynchronous academic development.  When questioned she also explained their attendance policies, and acknowledged the possibility of attending part time (so long as a diploma and graduation aren't a goal).   When we were done with the councilor we were passed to a peer councilor (a senior volunteer) who have us a tour of the physical facilities and talked a bit about her experiences there and the social climate.

FCHS offers many Advanced Placement courses, as well as limited concurrent enrollment possibilities.  The councilor said that they  had had students who were able to enroll directly as sophomores in college after graduation. (Compare this to CEC where the goal is an associates degree or enrollment as a junior in college after high school graduation)  There are over 1500 students, with 400 in the current freshman class.  It offers a full array of electives, sports, clubs and traditional high school activities.  Every student and staff member we met was helpful and kind.  The building appeared in good condition.  The school had a comfortable atmosphere.  I thought I wouldn't mind be a parent with a child here. I wouldn't mind working with these people, and leaving my child in their hands.

When I asked Bit Boy what he thought, he shrugged "It's fine.  I'm sure I'd do ok here."  He went on to say that he still thought CEC was a better fit for him.  When I asked him why he said, "It offered me what I want and need right now."  "It gives me a chance to work more quickly toward what's important to me."  "It still leaves me time for my own projects. A regular high school sucks up your life."  He went on to explain that he thought a smaller school would be a better institutional start for him (coming from homeschooling), and that sports and high school traditions weren't of significant importance to him.

So there you go.  From a parental prospective I found nothing wrong with Fort Collins High School.  It offers a traditional high school experience, access to advanced coursework, and what the councilor called "A proud history."   For a student who wanted what most of us would consider a "high school" experience, this would be a good school.  As a high school student I would have loved the theatre and musical opportunities, as well as the abundance of AP courses.  I had thought that the art and tech opportunities might draw Bit Boy, but he pointed out that he has had (and taken advantage of) all those opportunities as a homeschooler, and is looking for a very specific thing from high school - social peers, and college prep.  Fort Collins High School has that, but so far he likes CEC better.

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