Out of District MSA Students Drawn to NHS

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Out of District MSA Students Drawn to NHS

Benjamin Schlotman

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Novato High School has proven to be a magnet for people all across the Bay Area, thanks in large part to the Marin School of the Arts. With its variety of options, from visual art to musical theater to creative writing, students are making 45 minute-plus commutes to attend the school. This is unusual for a public school. 

Of all the students in the school, 165 are MSA students coming from other towns. These students are spread across the area. The commutes range in length from 15 minutes, for San Rafael, to an hour, for cities like Rutherford.

Freshman Simon Scheuer is in MSA’s creative writing and product design programs, and commented on his experience as an MSA student formerly in the San Rafael City Schools district. 

“I have to wake up at 6:30, and it’s a 30 or 40 minute drive. So that’s a little tight, but we make it work,” he said. 

As to why he chose MSA over his local school, Scheuer said, “I think I just wanted a change of scenery, like a fresh start…and I think my main attraction [to MSA] is the capacity to engage that in an academic setting and get academic credit for doing the art that I like.”

He also added that he was glad that he had chosen Novato High over his local high school, Terra Linda. This seems to be the attitude among the majority of MSA students coming from other districts. 

This also applies among the students who come from much further than the San Rafael residents like Scheuer. Freshman Cheyenne Vincent, in MSA’s Visual Arts program, drives from as far as Cotati. She said that “it usually takes about 45 minutes.” 

Like many other students who come from out of town, Vincent carpools to get to school. She added that it’s worth the drive because “the arts program really is fantastic.” 

Sophomore Isabelle Kiefer nearly had to transfer out of MSA, and she says “it was because of the long-distance commute.” She spoke on what was special about MSA.

“I’m in MSA Jazz Choir 2 and the most rewarding part of MSA is being able to attend festivals, and trying out for solos, and just plain being able to sing my heart out on the daily.” 

The ability to engage in art that students are passionate about clearly improves their love of the school overall. 

On whether she would recommend MSA to a student with a long commute, she said she would. 

“Sure, you’ll get stressed out from time to time, but it’s all worth it in the end, because by the time you’re done, you’re gonna tell yourself ‘this turned out how I wanted it to turn out.’” 

Creative Writing teacher Rebecca Pollack spoke on whether there are differences between out-of-district students and NUSD students. 

“I don’t really notice a difference between where people are coming from. I think if people are coming to the program, they’re excited about it.”

Pollack added that, “at least a third” of the students in her freshman Creative Writing class are from out of district, and later said that “I’d be surprised if even half of the class is from San Jose Middle School.”

MSA students come from all over the area, and it would appear that the majority are happy with their decision. Despite the pressure of getting up early, or the stress of possibly getting stuck in traffic, it seems to be worth the switch for Novato’s arts program.