SANTA FE, N.M. — Students are pushing back against major changes at Sandia High School’s Working with Young Children Program.
The program, an elective class that teaches early childhood development, is nearly 30 years old and known for offering hands-on childcare experience for high schoolers through its pre-kindergarten class at the school.
But the pre-K component will no longer be offered next school year.
“This means that our students will no longer be able to work directly with young children,” Sandia junior Donald Gurule wrote in an online petition, which was launched to resist the change.
And parents with preschoolers in the program will have to find another option.
The 17-year-old started the petition Thursday to “save Sandia High School’s preschool” and it had garnered over 500 signatures from students, parents and community members as of Friday evening.
Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the decision was made because an audit showed Sandia’s facility was inadequate to house pre-K students.
“They did an audit of the school facilities and learned the school did not have the infrastructure,” she told the Journal, adding the school was built for high school students.
And she said APS does not have the resources to retrofit it.
Asked if this year’s pre-K classes were held in inadequate conditions, Armenta said she didn’t have prior information about the facility. She added that she was “unaware” of any prior audits at the school.
Gurule, who took the elective class for the first time this year, told the Journal on Friday that Sandia’s pre-K component is a crucial aspect of the class.
“It had a really big impact,” he said. “Just in a year you can see how kids grow.”
He emphasized how much he’s learned through creating lesson plans and working in an environment with a small child-to-teacher ratio.
The program had just under 30 pre-K students this year, according to a roster of the class. But the district contended there were about 16.
Gurule says he wants to go into a career working with children and the Working with Young Children Program was good experience for that.
Armenta said the plan moving forward is for Sandia to partner with Comanche Elementary School for site visits.
The high school junior, who learned of the planned changes from school staff, said he thinks there should have been better communication, too.
“I felt like I was left in the dark,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been something that was passed without people knowing.”
Gurule says he and other students are planning on rallying behind Sandia’s pre-K at the next Board of Education meeting on April 17.