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MAD TEC up, running at Torres High

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Teachers from the Madera Technical Exploration Center (MAD TEC) are temporarily conducting classes in a portion of the new Matilda Torres High School.


Teachers at the Madera Technical Exploration Center (MAD TEC) are going to have to wait a few more weeks to move into their new school on the corner of Tozer and Sunrise. The staff of Madera Unified’s new concurrent enrollment middle school was chosen a year ago, and they spent the 2019-2020 school year at Eastin Arcola School working together and planning for the 2020-2021 school year with their principal, Alyson Rocco.

During that time, however, nature threw up a couple of roadblocks and gave them a different kind of opening for the 2020-2021 school year. First, the COVID-19 pandemic separated them from their students and forced them into something called “distance learning.” Second, the new facility is not quite ready for occupation, so they are conducting classes temporarily in a portion of the new Matilda Torres High School.

Likewise, when Sabrina Rodriquez left the principalship of Desmond Middle School to take the helm at Matilda Torres High, she didn’t expect to come to work in a school without kids, nor did she plan on sharing the campus with the new middle school.

Expectations aside, however, that is exactly what happened. When school opened three weeks ago, Matilda Torres High School and Madera Technical Exploration Center were both conducting classes at the elegant edifice on the corner of Road 26 and Martin Street. Sixty-two teachers are conducting classes for 1,850 students there.

Forty-four of those teachers make up the instructional staff of Matilda Torres High, and they are teaching 950 students each day via computers. These students are ninth and 10th graders from the Desmond and Dixieland attendance areas. Torres High will acquire 11th graders next year and seniors the following year.

According to Rodriquez, virtual classes follow a block schedule. Each class runs for 90 minutes with periods 1, 3, and 5 meeting on Monday and Thursday. Periods 2, 4, and 6 meet on Tuesday and Friday. The students have a 15-minute break after their first class and a 30-minute lunch break after their second class. Students move from class to class just as they would if they were attending school on campus, but in this case, to change classes, they simply move from one Zoom meeting to another without leaving their learning stations at home.

As is the case throughout the district, Wednesday is what is known as an asynchronous day in which much of the work is done independently. Students work on assignments or meet with teachers one-on-one or in small groups.

While Torres High’s ninth and 10th graders are attending class virtually, in another part of the campus, MAD TEC’s 18 teachers are conducting classes for their 900 eighth graders with a much different arrangement. Their school consists of six different labs — Engineering, Health, Public Safety, Agriculture, Performing Arts, and Entrepreneurial Marketing. MAD TEC’s students have each chosen a lab, and they divide their time between that lab and their home school.

Each MAD TEC lab has three teachers, one that focuses on one of the particular career pathways and two that integrate the core curriculum, such as English or math, into the lab instruction.

MAD TEC’s students come from Madera Unified’s three middle schools and its five K-8 schools.

By all accounts, the school year has gotten off to a reasonably smooth beginning for both Torres High and MAD TEC. After receiving a baptism by fire last spring when COVID-19 suddenly closed the schools, local educators have bounced back with complete abandon, even when it means operating two schools out of the same campus.

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