Modesto school board considers ways to get students to Davis, Johansen

naustin@modbee.comJanuary 13, 2014 

— Davis High students would all get computers under a proposal being considered by Modesto City Schools – one of several ideas floated to attract more students to Davis and Johansen high schools, where enrollment has dropped in recent years.

“Digital Davis” would be the first computers-for-all high school in Modesto, said administrator Mike Coats. The district is still weighing how to provide greater bandwidth and whether to go with tablets or laptops.

Having students take Modesto Junior College courses while getting credits also for high school is further along in planning. Administrator Thor Harrison said sophomores could begin next year taking a health class in the fall and a speech class in the spring.

Taking two classes a year, students could leave high school with 18 college credits – a full semester – under their belts. All the classes would transfer to four-year state universities, Harrison said.

Beefing up career course offerings at both high school campuses also was discussed. Johansen will expand its multimedia pathway with a renovated television studio.

Davis, which already offers public safety courses, would get nursing and hospital career classes now held elsewhere, administrator Mike Henderson said. Its central location and proximity to medical facilities makes it the best choice, he added.

“These are exciting times,” said board member Sue Zwahlen.

Busing options to bring students from other areas should be explored, said board member Ruben Villalobos.

Davis had only 1,400 students last year and Johansen had about 1,800. That compares with about 2,500 at Enochs and Modesto high schools, the district’s largest. The ideas for bolstering the numbers of students at Davis and Johansen were presented for discussion only – no votes were taken.

In other business, Beyer High varsity baseball play will be on Paul Cornwell Field. With a unanimous vote, the board decided to name the field for the retired teacher, longtime baseball coach and volunteer in honor of more than 40 years of service to the school.

The purchase of a $147,000 icemaker will be on the fast-track after unanimous board approval of an emergency waiver to avoid going through the bidding process. Mechanical failure of the chiller at the district’s central kitchen means ice is being trucked in daily to keep student food cold, said Chief Business Official Julie Chapin.

Open enrollment closed in November, but there are four other categories under which students can change schools, all closing Feb. 28, said Ed Miller, head of student welfare.

Downey received the majority of students shifting from home campuses, the bulk coming from Davis and Johansen areas, Miller said.

The board approved the 2012-13 audit, which showed the district’s operating spending and revenue as basically a wash. Higher state funding after passage of Proposition 30 in November saved the district from using $24 million from its savings, Chapin said.

Overall the district still overspent $8.2 million, when cafeteria, facility costs and all other expenses are included, but it ended the year with a $108 million in the bank.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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