by Elise Tran & Anju Ito, Staff Writers
As the largest school in the Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD), Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) has experienced both advantages and disadvantages from its huge student body.
There are many pros that exist with having an enormous school. With more students, FVHS is able to have a large variety of clubs as well as classes. Because classes are created based on the number of students, it gives large schools more opportunities to have a wide variety of classes, including the Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This gives students in FVHS more freedom in class choices ensuring that the curriculum fits each individual.
Physics teacher Jeff Larson said, “We have one of the best academic reputations around. You graduate from Fountain Valley and then you put your application into colleges and colleges know that we do a very, very good job with educating our students and the students that come to college will be very well prepared.”
The number of teachers correlate with the number of students in a school. By having a larger student population, there would be more teachers while smaller schools would have less.
This is the same for the number of guidance counselors as well. FVHS currently has the most amount of counselors in the district at four, while the rest of the high schools only have three with the smallest, Ocean View High School (OVHS), having only two.
On the economic side, the money a school earns is based on the student attendance. Since, FVHS is a larger school, it receives more money to accommodate the students.
Also, students are able to meet a lot more new people and create friendships, as larger schools is much more likely to have large diversities with students of different backgrounds, interests, religions and ethnicities.
“The world is a big place, so a big school is good practice for a big world and in the big world you kind of have to watch out for yourself just like you have to at a big school,” said Stephanie Palmer, a union representative for FVHS.
However, there are also downsides to a large school.
All schools in the district have the same amount of support staff such as the custodians, psychologist, registrar and nurse, despite the population differences. FVHS support staff earn the same amount of money, but are required to work with double the amount of people.
For instance, FVHS school psychologist, Cynthia Olaya works with students one-on-one since it’s more difficult to create and organize students in group with a large school, whereas her counterpart at OVHS is able to create support groups where they can help even six students at once with similar situations.
“That’s probably the biggest [problem] I face. Not being able to do things as much as I would like to on sort of a broader, more systemic level and instead doing a lot of the one-on-one, which I love; I love working with kids but I feel like I could be more effective if I could do things a little more effectively,” said Olaya.
Having to work with individuals one at a time increases the amount of time and effort that Olaya needs to put in, and also by having smaller groups, students are able to receive peer support. In addition, Olaya also finds it harder to get to know students on a more personal level.
Currently, there is an ongoing discussion about the number of support staff in the district office, but the main reason there hasn’t been change is funding.
“We complained about it just this last year and I think the teachers got together, and I don’t know if they’ve actually done this yet, but there was the thought that the teachers were actually getting together and write a letter to the school board and the superintendent. We have a new superintendent now, so maybe, who knows, maybe we might get a change [in the number of support stuff],” said Larson.
In addition, small communities make it easier for tighter communities to form. especially between the staff and the students.
“A small school population affords staff the opportunity to get to know students. The same faces walk through the halls every day. After a while, you recognize them and possibly get to know their names. You have the opportunity to spend more one on one time with them,” said Karathanas, the registrar of OVHS who previously worked at FVHS.
Meanwhile, in larger schools it is harder to stand out, and students can often get lost in the crowd.
“As easy as it is to fit in, it’s also easy to disappear,” Palmer said. “So, kids, I think, can be isolated even with so many people around them. I think that’s one of the problems [of a large school].”
Due to the largeness of the FVHS population, space is also becoming a conflict for both teachers and students. With only a limited number of classrooms, teachers are forced to share classrooms and travel to different rooms every few periods. Meanwhile, class sizes can become very large for the students, and others may not be able to even get into the classes they would have liked to.
“We’re a victim of our own success. Everybody wants to come to Fountain Valley. We have trouble with students sneaking into school that shouldn’t be here. We have such a great reputation as a school and so many students want to come here. So, that’s one of the reasons why we have such a huge student body; it’s because people want to come here. That’s a good thing, but on the other hand it creates problems,” said Larson, pointing out both sides of a big school.
David Huynh (‘19), a transfer from Westminster High School said, “Westminster is more of a community-involved school, and Fountain Valley has better teachers, students are more willing to learn, and it’s just more fun to be here.”
Considering all the pros and cons, the choice between whether a large school is fit would all come down to the individual and his or her preferences in the end.
Published in the March newspaper.