Alternative Schools: A Look at Marin Oaks and NOVA


Sophia Steddin

Two alternative schools in Novato that students from Novato High have been known to transfer to are NOVA and Marin Oaks. While these schools are different from one another, they both cater to students who can benefit from a non-traditional school setting. Both schools are located at Hill Education Center. In some cases, these schools can allow for students to have the option of graduating early.

Schoolwork at NOVA consists of packets of schoolwork that must be completed within a certain span of time. Co-enrollment is offered at Novato High, San Marin High, College of Marin, and Santa Rosa Junior College. NOVA’s website states that some of the reasons one may find NOVA to be a better fit than traditional schooling is because they are maintaining a job that requires a great deal of time, they experience difficulties attending school or issues surrounding anxiety. However, there are many reasons that could impact one’s decision of transferring to NOVA. 

Senior Morgan Peterson shared what made her switch over to NOVA as well as her experience subsequent to transferring. 

“I switched because high school was just not for me,” Peterson said. “There was too much structure and it took up too many hours of the day. A lot of people at Novato High don’t know about NOVA and they think of it as a slack school, but the only reason I think it’s easier is because they really make it just for you. They let you learn about things that you find really interesting.”

Instruction with a teacher is offered once a week for one hour. People sometimes assume that non-traditional methods of schooling may be easier. This proves that in order for students to succeed in NOVA, they must be able to work diligently by themselves with little instruction from a teacher and remain self-motivated. 

Tatiana Oliver, a student who has been enrolled in NOVA for about half of her high school experience, shared some of her own insights about her decision to transfer. 

“You have to be really really self-disciplined to be in NOVA but I think that’s taught me a lot. I switched over right before my junior year. With my free time now, I take a lot of dance classes, make a lot of films, and spend a lot more time on script writing. I can figure out when I want to do certain things,” shared Oliver. 

Students can complete an application to attend NOVA and speak with their school counselor if they are interested in making the switch. Satisfactory attendance and a 2.0 GPA are required for enrollment. Interviews take place twice a month, August through April. 

Marin Oaks is a public school in Novato with approximately 70 students and a student to teacher ratio of 1 to 11. Students attend school for 4 and a half hours, Monday through Friday. A shorter school day is offered and students do not receive homework. If students earn a grade of a C- or lower, they are added to a list and are then required to stay after school and work on their assignments until their grade is raised. 

For many, Marin Oaks offers a learning environment which makes learning more attainable through the support offered. Your school counselor will likely recommend transferring to Marin Oaks if they think it could be a good fit for you. 

Ameer Iqbal shared his experience of transferring from Novato High to Marin Oaks.

“I transferred to Marin Oaks because I didn’t have the best grades and I always struggled with homework and stressing about school all the time, it just wasn’t for me. Marin Oaks is very supportive and they actually care for your education. All of the staff are really nice, really great people,” Iqbal said. 

Noah Guerrero explained some of the differences between attending NHS and Marin Oaks. 

“At Marin Oaks, it’s very different academic wise. The teachers are more engaged in your learning and getting the concept to you until you understand, which is unheard of at a normal high school where you work at your own pace as the teacher talks,” Guerrero said. 

The class sizes at Marin Oaks are much smaller than Novato High School, offering students more individual help, and allowing teachers more time to help each student. While teachers at many public schools, including Novato High School, may try their very best to give their students the amount of help the student needs, it is much more challenging due to the larger class sizes. 

Through NOVA, students are able to experience more down time and not be confined to a schedule. While this can be challenging for many, some students are able to roll with this and thrive, possibly being more productive than they were before. 

With all people and students being vastly different from one another, they also learn differently and benefit differently in their respective environments. While one may love sticking to an organized schedule, it could make somebody else feel suffocated and unable to meet their full potential. And while one may love having more free time and the opportunity to complete schoolwork completely independently, one may find that they need more structure and guidance. 

With so many different learners, it is important that there are a variety of school environments available, catering to everybody’s individual needs and best interests.