Understanding Electives at ACA


Elective options at ACA can seem fairly limited, especially for high school students. However, it is important for potentially frustrated students and families to understand why electives at ACA are not as comprehensive as are offered at traditional schools.

Elective courses are important for a well rounded education. The state of Oregon requires high school students to take a minimum of six elective credits over four years to graduate with a “standard diploma.” However, according to Nic Chapin, the Executive Director of ACA,  “The on site program was never built to be a comprehensive program…It wasn’t meant for students to take all of their classes on site,” ACA was never necessarily meant to satisfy every high school requirement.

Not only was ACA’s program never intended to be comprehensive; the Park Place school building is not set up for more classes. “We work in the cores [language arts, math, science, social studies] first, we’re constrained with electives by space…” says Chapin. According to Chapin, the administration prioritizes classes that parents may be intimidated to teach at home such as math. With limited space, budget, and personnel, finding the classes that people want and need the most is key to a functional schedule. “Everyone wants as many classes as possible, but the classes that get filled up are our cores…it’s a balancing act…we do our best to make a schedule that works best for our students.” – Nic Chapin

If ACA does not provide classes that interest a student on site, they are allowed to turn to outside vendors to satisfy their elective requirements. Allotment money may be used to purchase classes or curriculum from outside sources such as dance studios or music teachers. Jill Mohr, Associate Director at ACA, says ​families are welcomed to suggest vendors if they find one that meets their needs, “The vendor must then meet certain criteria in order to become an ‘accepted’ vendor.​”

One roadblock to finding vendors may be the twenty percent limit. Only twenty percent of one year’s allotment can go towards outside vendors. According to Danelle Till, business manager at ACA, “Allotment money has a lot to do with fake money…the limit was a way of trying to control the cost, the money has to come from somewhere.” However, on site electives in combination with outside vendor services seems to be enough for students.

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted on high school students at ACA, twelve out of seventeen students feel that, in past years, ACA has offered a wide enough range of electives to fit what they need. “Personally I feel like I have more than enough electives to choose from. My interests may not be the same as everyone else, but as a student musician and actor, I feel like I have plenty of electives provided,” says Ash Scott, a Sophomore at ACA.

The amount of electives offered at ACA may seem limited, but the school itself endorses broadening horizons outside of the school building itself. The administration works hard to give students what they need on campus, but gives them the tools to look elsewhere.

Sidebar story:

Erin Holman, a teacher and ES, has decided to take a break from teaching the Tap classes. Holman has been teaching tap for ten years in ACA and says she will most likely resume teaching the classes in the future, “it feels more like a break than a complete stop…I want to fundraise to repair the stage while not damaging it further.” She says that, so far, no students have voiced disappointment but she’s “had a few parents and co-workers voicing theirs.”

Overall Holman says “I taught the class for ten years and really just needed a break.”

Student Voices:

“Although I like the electives offered, I would like more of a variety.” – Nicole Engelke

“More art classes for high school” – Anonymous  

“I’m in college so I took electives there” – Anonymous

“The elective options offered at ACA pale in comparison to other schools, but it’s easily supplemented by the ACE program. If you want a typical high school experience, it’s lacking” – Anna Krieske

“ACA seems pretty packed with electives as is, especially in the music department.” – Ash Scott

“I feel that there should be more academic electives offered, and classes/electives that will teach you skills that you will actually need and will use in your day-to-day life.” – Nicole Engelke

Aquilina Larkins (ninth grade), Rebecca Olson (eighth grade), Allison Jackson (eighth grade), Nataile Ramsey (eighth grade), and Anika Shubin (tenth grade) practicing harmonizing in Choir II. Choir II is taught by Margie Phillips, who also teaches a wide variety of classes including Choir, Drums, PE, and Piano Monday, March 13.


Kylie Lewis (eleventh grade) using Maya to make a 3D animation in “ACA’s Maker” Lab class. Students in Maker Lab work with various computer programs as well as on physical projects such as 3D and vinyl printing. Thursday, March 8.


Kathryn Taggart (sixth grade) and Madelyn Griffiths (ninth grade) working on cardboard sculptures in Painting & Sculpture. Throughout the year students work with many medium to create different types of art. Mar. 13, 2018


Anonymous source, Survey response. Mar. 10, 2018

Chapin, Nic. Personal interview. Mar. 7, 2018

Engelke, Nicole. Survey response and email interview. Mar. 10, 2018

Holman, Erin. Personal interview. Mar 21, 2018

https://oregoncis.uoregon.edu/Occ/materials/HHSC_grad_req.pdf Mar 6, 2018

Krieske, Annelise. Personal interview. Mar. 13, 2018

Scott, Ash. Email interview. Mar. 13, 2018

Survey Results. Mar. 10, 2018

Till, Danelle. Personal interview. Mar. 14, 2018

Mohr, Jill. Personal and email interview. Mar. 7, 2018