Applicants observe classes — and students

While switching classes this week, students could see large groups of sixth-graders standing with their parents. Members of the groups were on campus because they have heard West Shore is a “good school,” and want to see if it is the right fit for them.

“I just want to… see what it’s like,” sixth-grader Ashley W. said.

Assistant Principal Jim Melia said the tours are given each year to give incoming students and their parents an idea of what they might be  getting into before applying to the school by showing them how West Shore works. Students who wish to apply must fill out the appropriate paperwork and then have their names placed in a lottery. Approximately 175 incoming seventh-graders are randomly selected each year from a pool of nearly 800 applicants.

The tours are designed to provide a glimpse of what the physical part of the school is like. Starting at the auditorium and ending in the media center, prospective students find out about important places they should know, such as the guidance office, the clinic and the cafeteria. Tour guides also show off the school’s technology and provide information on class offerings ranging from middle school electives to high school Advanced Placement classes.

“I understand how they feel because they’re only sixth-graders,” freshman Evy Guerra said. “They are just trying to get the feel of the West Shore environment.”

But few observers seemed intimidated about being in a high-school environment, and some said they liked the idea of taking classes with mixed grades.

“It’s really cool,” sixth-grader Terrence R. said. “If you’re friends with them [high school students] and they have other friends, then you get popular.”

Sixth-grader Andrew T. said he likes that West Shore is a junior-senior high school because he wouldn’t have to go to different schools.

Students also said they liked the school because of its education and the opportunities it opens them up to.

Ashley W. said she wants to enroll “because it’s a little bit different from other schools, and it meets my needs I guess. It’s not a traditional school.”

“It would help me get into better colleges and give me a lot of opportunities to go to better schools,” sixth-grader Clayto W. said.

A few of the touring students expressed interest in the language programs.

“I would have to say [what I like most about West Shore], is probably that you can take three years of two different languages,” said Clayto W., who plans to take French and Spanish.

Terrence R. said what he likes most are the variety of electives such as graphic design and languages, clubs and sports offered. However, he’s upset that there’s no football.

“We generally get a lot of questions about sports because most middle school students don’t know they can get into high school sports,” testing coordinator and tour guide Mike Drake said.

For some, the enthusiasm was tempered with trepidation as sixth-graders also asked students questions such as “do you really have eight hours of homework every night?”

Course sequence also was a common concern. Tour guides explained the various options students can choose from. In Jeanie Griffin’s English class, the guides explained how every student needs to take English every year, and that they have options including AP or regular classes.

“I don’t know if it [the tours] really impacts the number of people who apply,” Drake said. “They’re done more as a courtesy for the people who do apply.”

At least one of the upperclassmen reported feeling like animals on display in a zoo.

“I think [the tours] are a disturbance because they make a lot of noise and I don’t understand why they watch our classes,” sophomore Ryan Wheat said.

But Spanish teacher Luis Martin said the tours are a positive experience overall.

“I think it is great for the kids to see how the school is,” he said. “It shows them what to expect. [The tours] are never a disturbance. I have never heard one complaint about them.”

By Emily Dubec-Hunter and Valerie Ferretti