Since January of 2020, 35 students from the class of 2022 have left Redwood, which is 11 more than what was projected by the administration.
The current senior class began their freshman year in 2018 with 541 students. Today this has now dwindled down to 490 students. Similarly, the current junior class began freshman year with 526 students and has now dropped down to 491 students. The majority of this population loss occurred after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
One reason for this may be the transfer of students to smaller schools like Tamiscal High School, an alternative school located next to Redwood. Tamiscal implements a different approach to learning that is more specific to students’ individual needs.
Former Redwood students Avery Grant and Alec Winterhalter transferred into Tamiscal’s Pathways Program at the start of this year. According to their website, Pathways is a “program to provide an alternative experience for high school students to help them transition to college and prepare for life after high school, while also helping them finish their graduation requirements.”
Each year, the program takes on 48 students, all seniors within the Tamalpais Union High School District, allowing them to have more time for internships, college classes and extracurricular activities.
Grant, now a senior, was planning on spending the rest of her high school years at Redwood until she heard about the Pathways Program.
“Being in the pandemic really opened my eyes to a lot of my other interests,” Grant said. “Going to school six hours a day didn’t seem right anymore because I felt like I was so ready to go to college at the end of my junior year.”
Upon transferring to Tamiscal, Grant has seen a huge shift in her schedule. She went from going to school for 7 hours a day to doing less school while pursuing two internships and taking college classes. Similar to Grant, Winterhalter enjoys the independence that the program has given him and also found that his time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic influenced how he viewed schooling at Redwood.
“During COVID-19 and online school, I got a feel for a more flexible schedule and being able to maintain my own time. Even the small things, such as being able to cook when I want and eat when I want, were important to me,” Winterhalter said.
Winterhalter says that his reason for leaving Redwood did not have to do with any negative experiences at the school. He transferred because he found Tamiscal’s program to be a better fit for him. Grant feels similarly regarding the program, however, she admits that she did not have the best time at Redwood socially.
“I always felt like I had a hard time finding my group of people at Redwood. I think Redwood can be a little bit cliquey,” Grant said.
Principal David Sondheim is in charge of overall management of enrollment at the school. Sondheim explained how Redwood, being such a large school, is not always the perfect fit for all students.
“For those whom this is either too big of a school, too stressful of a school, [or who] might need individual attention or pursue something specific, I’m really glad that we have [other] options for students.” Sondheim said. “I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that a big 2,000 person school is going to be the right school for every individual.”
Sondheim feels very fortunate to have other options within the district for students because many might find that at smaller schools like Tamiscal, it is much easier to navigate and focus.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Pathways so far,” Grant said. “It’s a much better environment for me because it’s a small group of students and you build closer relationships with the students and the teachers.”