The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

The Advocate

Gateway to College’s abrupt closure raises questions

After a decade of service, Gateway to College will not continue next year, while the program’s students and staff scramble to see what next school year will look like for them.
Nojixa Anacleto
Gateway to College office located in the Applied Arts building at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, CA, on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

As the semester comes to an end at Contra Costa College, many programs are preparing for the next semester. Gateway to College – a program aimed at helping West Contra Costa County’s high school students who are in danger of not graduating to successfully obtain their high school diplomas and work toward college – is not one of them. The termination of the program was made known after the West Contra Costa Unified School District board decided in a meeting to not renew the contract due to funding issues.

Superintendent Chris Hurst sent out an email stating that “Gateway to College will be shut down” to the WCCUSD community. After a board meeting in January of this year, where district leaders announced the $601,597  dollar in debt they are facing, WCCUSD put in writing at the meeting the expiration of the Gateway to College contract with CCC, saying they will be shifting their services over to Greenwood Academy. District leaders claimed this was the best solution to lower the financial gap.

But what does this mean for students in the program? Where will they go for the next school year? 

“Students have three options: they can either go to Greenwood Academy, which is another continuation high school. If they have enough credits they have the opportunity to return to their past high school. Or if they are over 18 they can attend adult school around the Contra Costa District,”  Morgan LaRue, a general education teacher at Gateway to College said “This news was heartbreaking and LaRue feels awful for the students since this felt like a sideswipe.”

Linda Johnson has been working at Gateway since it opened in 2012 and expressed her thoughts on the program’s termination. 

“This is horrible and the most tragic thing that could happen,” Johnson said.“They are taking away so many last chance opportunities students not only had from high school but also college credits.”

Students in the program have stated how this felt last minute and most of them do not know what they are going to do yet. Another student says they’re being hopeful to get their GED. 

Even though students were not informed until early January about Gateway to College closing. Sonja Neely-Johnson, the Chief Academic Officer and Associate Superintendent of WCCUSD stated in an email to Gateway to College leaders that the program “was slated to close last year but we continued because we didn’t want to abruptly stop the program. Our fiscal situation has made this impossible to continue at this time.” 

This made the situation odd, Gateway staff said, since Neely-Johnson claimed in the email “we didn’t want to abruptly stop the program” but still proceeded to not give students a proper warning about the program’s status and continued having staff recruit more students.  

Johnson mentioned her plans for the next board meeting and email the entire WCCUSD community. In the email she hopes to let the community know how wrong it is to terminate the program saying, “The district hid the closure of Gateway to College on a dense list of software licenses out and out of state bills,” she said.  “And they neglected to inform the $600,000 dollar budget reduction claim was not money that came from WCCUSD budget to begin with instead it was money paid by the state and it simply funneled through WCCUSD to pay the college the ADA that Gateway earned for attendance.”

According to Johnson, “Only one staff member is paid by the district and the rest of the staff and facilities are paid by Contra Costa College.”

Several Gateway staff and students said that WCCUSD has not been supportive of them in this matter​ They said they feel that the district does not know how Gateway’s closure has impacted students mentally and physically as far as losing motivation to attend school. 

“Past Gateway to College students have gone and done better things, and if it wasn’t for Gateway they would not have been as successful,” Johnson said. But now they are falling apart, and the three options WCCUSD provided are not viable for most of the student population,” she continued. “Even though we are not hopeful of them changing their minds, we feel it’s very important that the community knows what they did.”

Superintendent Chris Hurst and Raechelle Forrest, the Communication Directors at WCCUSD did not request to comment on the situation

After its discontinuation, at CCC there are now only 34 colleges across the country providing the program. Johnson – along with students – has been very vocal about keeping Gateway open at board meetings. The advocates for the program also created a petition to generate support for keeping it open.

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About the Contributor
Nojixa Anacleto
Nojixa Anacleto, Associate Editor

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