The recession of 2008 led to the closure of adult schools throughout the state as school districts used funds that had once been dedicated to adult education to avoid making cuts to other programs. Cabrillo Adult School, which held classes at Cunha Intermediate School and Half Moon Bay High School, was closed at the end of the 2008-09 school year.
Not long after, the Half Moon Bay branch of the College of San Mateo closed its office in response to cutbacks in the San Mateo Community College District. Since then, adult education offerings on the Coastside have largely consisted of English as a second language and computer literacy classes through Cañada College. Puente de la Costa Sur has its own slate of courses, as well.
Now, Cabrillo Unified School District is gearing up to offer beginning ESL courses that would feed into Cañada’s semester-long Half Moon Bay class. The coordination with the community college is intentional, a part of state legislation passed in 2013 in response to the spate of adult school closures.
Assembly Bill 86 required districts that still had adult programs to maintain them for two years. In doing so, it also set aside $25 million to provide two-year planning and implementation grants to regional consortia made up of community college districts and school districts. The state’s directive, as outlined in the bill, was that community college and school districts should work together to develop regional plans to better serve local adults’ educational needs and avoid the duplication of services.
In San Mateo County, the consortium is known as Adult-Education College and Career Educational Leadership.
Two years after AB 86’s passage, the state responded by earmarking $500 million in the 2015-16 budget specifically for adult education. This fiscal year, funds will be apportioned first to the school districts and county offices of education that were required to maintain their adult education programs the last two years. Beginning in fall 2016, the money will be appropriated directly to the planning bodies themselves, taking into account providers’ effectiveness and need in the region.
Future funding availability will dictate how Cabrillo Adult School grows. What’s currently known is that it will serve Half Moon Bay and Pescadero and will eventually be housed at Pilarcitos High School. The school’s principal, Raj Bechar, will serve as its director.
Before its closure, Cabrillo Adult School offered a range of classes, including ESL and citizenship as well as cooking and yoga. However, the passage of AB 86 mandates that districts spend grant funding toward improving five specific types of education programs. These include classes needed for a high school diploma or equivalency, courses for immigrants, programs for disabled adults, apprenticeship and career technical education programs with high employment potential.
The revived adult school will initially focus on offering free beginning ESL courses this fall, with a start date not yet determined since the school is still in need of classroom space and teachers. Helping Bechar lead the school’s restoration is Shari Deghi, whom Cabrillo hired over the summer as its new adult school coordinator. Deghi helped start ESL classes on the coast 25 years ago and has taught at the San Mateo Adult School for the last seven years. She recalls how her interest in teaching ESL was sparked when she first moved to the Coastside and witnessed a man getting arrested for shoplifting because of a misunderstanding caused by a language barrier.
“I said, ‘We have a huge problem in the community. Shouldn’t we be able to talk to each other?’” Deghi said. “Employers have a really hard time finding unskilled laborers because their level of English is so low. There is more employability with more people speaking English. That will help provide more jobs for local people.”
Deghi added that while the adult school’s focus will be on offering ESL classes initially, the goal is for the school to host classes that benefit adults with varying needs, including those who want to acquire skills to advance in their current job or profession.
For Bechar, who assisted with Cañada College’s ESL classes at Cunha when he taught there, restoring the Cabrillo Adult School means that lives will be improved throughout the community, and not just for those taking the classes.
“Many adults have children in the district,” Bechar said. “A child with an educated parent is that much more able to succeed in school, so it helps the entire community.”
"Pillar Point and Half Moon Bay" by Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA - 2009_04_19 - Wikipedia