Sonoma Valley High welcomes prospective freshmen for Dragon Expo

Prospective eighth-graders visited SVHS to learn about academics, athletics and elective offerings on campus.|

Eighth-graders from across Sonoma County were welcomed at Sonoma Valley High School Thursday evening by a mass of student volunteers, staff members and even the school band for the annual Dragon Expo. The event, which offers next year’s freshman class a glimpse of high school life, included an evening of tours, academic presentations and live performances.

College Counselor Lisa Conner, who helped plan the event, noted that the event is designed “to allow incoming freshmen to see the campus.”

Tours snaked through campus to visit every department, led by a mix of administrators and teachers accompanied by upperclassmen decked in Dragon spirit wear. Prospective freshmen heard about hands-on learning in the engineering and woodshop programs and visited the kitchen for complimentary brown butter cookies made by the culinary students. In the library, the school’s Mock Trial club held a scrimmage against visiting Marin Catholic as guides touted the school’s alumni.

“We have students who have gone to Stanford, you might have heard of it,” joked AP government teacher Craig Tierney to his group.

The tours also placed heavy emphasis on the newly finished athletic facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool and weight room, as well as its seating areas decorated in Dragon green.

After exploring touring the campus, families were directed towards the Pfeiffer Gym, where staff members across all departments, from math to athletics to performing arts, talked with interested students about electives and sports. After a short welcome from Principal Molly Kiss, families continued to drift through the open campus and talk with students about their experiences. Senior Rowan Winslow, who manned the drama table said, “it was really nice to be able to represent my classes and pass information to the next group of freshmen.”

In addition to the presentations and band sets, the school dance team showed off their moves with two performances in Golton Hall, cheered on by enthusiastic friends and family.

Despite the festivities, the event was partially overshadowed by the school district’s talk of school consolidations to accommodate declining student enrollment district-wide, the unexpected departure of Dr. Adrian Palazuelos as superintendent, questions about safety on campus and a drop in test scores. Several parents said these issues contributed to their hesitancy in putting their children in the local high school. Several attended the Expo to conduct additional research in making a final the decision.

Kiera Larbre, a parent to an SVHS sophomore, Adele Harrison eighth- grader, and a fifth-grader at a Petaluma Charter, said, “[Ultimately] closing schools feels like the right move if it supports the children.”

Others were more optimistic, with Karly Miller, “very encouraged by Principal [Kiss]” and the school’s “sense of community.” Her daughter, Mary, expressed interest in the school’s athletic programs, especially as the Dragon girl’s basketball team sits in the top spot of the Vine Valley Athletic League.

While Conner believed the event was successful, she noted the drop in attendance compared to years previous, down to 150 people from a high of at least 500. “I have some ideas for next year, including focusing more on the [exhibitions in the] gym. I’ll have to coordinate with teachers and administration before we move further into planning.”

Aside from the performances and exhibitions, presentations were given on Advanced Placement classes by AP English Language and Composition Teacher Alison Manchester and AP United States History and Social Studies Chair Andrew Gibson. They were joined by current AP students, who touted the benefits of the rigorous classes.

“You walk into class thinking you know English, and [Ms. Manchester] changes that in a second,” said senior Luc Rulmont.

As guests trickled out, tired teachers and teens, some of whom had been on campus since 7 a.m., cleaned up their table displays and put away their pamphlets, ready to return to school the next day.

Senior Vince Basada is the editor of the Sonoma Valley High School Dragon’s Tale and an Index-Tribune student reporter.

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