Virginia City students get a break from norm

When 15-year-old Daniel Williams gets ready for school, he has to make sure he's remembered the necessities.

"I grab my guitar and amp," he said. "It's like, 'Yes. I get to play today.'"

For the month of January, Williams is replacing his regular courses at Virginia City High School with cooking, theater and garage-band classes as part of the school's annual intersession program.

Intersession began at the school five years ago as a way to remediate students in the middle of the year who were falling behind in their classes or who had failed the state-mandated proficiency exams.

And it's worked.

"Virginia City has never had a kid who could not graduate because they could not pass the proficiency exam," said Principal Todd Hess. "We pass an awful lot of seniors in early February after they've had the chance to spend a month in remediation."

While some students take advantage of the time to catch up, others choose from a variety of classes ranging from theater to sewing and flag football to enhance their education.

Band teacher Matt Breithaupt decided to teach a garage-band class with an emphasis on rock 'n' roll from the '70s after several students expressed interest in playing guitars.

"This makes it so the other kids in the school can have music too," he explained, taking a break from "Stairway to Heaven," on which he played the bass guitar.

Manuel Alvarado, 18, chose robotics for the second year in a row.

"I built a robot last year which is the same brand of the one I'm finishing now," he said. "This one is called Copy Cat. The one I built last year was Blinky. I could only do this during intersession."

English teacher Christine Prater has taught the art of Middle Eastern dance for the last three years but finds the class extends beyond teaching mere movements.

She spent two years living in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and has studied belly dance for 30 years.

"This class is about the dance and the movement, but it's also a friendly look into the culture," she said. "We've been seeing so much ugliness from that area, and this is something beautiful."

Melissa Caldara, 17, has taken the class twice and, along with Rachelle Grey, 17, is doing her senior project on the dance.

"A lot of people look at you and wonder how you do it," she said. "They don't usually see people move their hips this way. It's really pretty."

A special performance will be held at the school tonight to showcase what the student's have learned and classes will resume to normal on Monday.

It won't be easy to leave the intersession behind.

"It gives me something to do that's challenging and it actually interests me," said Thomas Annable, 14. "It's hecka fun."

Contact Teri Vance at or at 881-1272.


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