West Ranch holds first Open House and Eighth Grade Orientation in-person after two years online

Lauren Guss and Camille Ayson

   West Ranch’s Open House and Eighth Grade Orientation occurred in-person on March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. Open House is an event that invites parents and guardians to experience their student’s daily routine at school. However, for the past two years, this opportunity was limited to a computer screen and the boundaries of a family’s own home. Previously, visitors were able to meet with past and present teachers, explore the campus, celebrate various cultures through a food buffet at the language department and chat with educators about their child’s progress in class. All of these activities have finally returned now that COVID restrictions have slowly been lifted.

   The night began at 6 p.m., when ASB members welcomed the upcoming class of 2026 and their guardians to the amphitheater. Visitors flooded the steps as West Ranch’s Studio A Jazz Band performed their spring set. Once everyone had settled in, Mr. Crawford introduced himself, as well as the National Anthem singer, who led everyone in the patriotic tune. Speakers, including the West Ranch counseling team, led by Mrs. Reynoso, Mrs. Priske, the ASB director, the Wellness Center head, Ms, Phillips and Mr. Holland, who represented the AP program, all took turns presenting to the incoming and current students and families.

   Mr. Holland’s presentation encouraged students to consider taking AP classes. He explained “AP classes are rigorous, as they ought to be, but that prepares you for college and the challenge ahead, because I think as we know there are some good things to learn from our challenges…take the ones that interest you. Take the ones that you’re like, ‘I would like to spend a year in deep learning on that subject.’”

    In addition to learning about the educational environment and services offered on campus, different programs such as cheer, band and dance performed. Freshman, junior varsity and varsity cheer, West Ranch’s band and drumline and the Dance Team put on a show for their audience.

   Around the corner of the foreign language building on lower campus, long rows of tables stood lining the walkway that were filled with Spanish cultural food. Students taking Spanish classes received the opportunity to bring dishes such as churros, conchas, flan, rice and beans, horchata and more for visitors to snack on and learn about during the Cultural Fair. 

   Spanish teacher Mrs. Rivas said, “[the fair] allows us to bring the language to life and share with the students and the parents the other side of the language: it’s about community and culture and music and food. It’s a fun night to celebrate that side of what we’re learning in the classroom.”

   Not only was the Cultural Fair a highlight of the night, but the sports and P.E. programs at West Ranch hosted their own presentations in the gym next to the blacktop. Booths showing off each sport with respective representatives surrounded visitors as they walked. Players and coaches remained prepared to answer questions, hand out flyers of information on their program and greet new and familiar faces. 

   At one of the booths stood Mr. Varner, the varsity football coach. He wanted to spread “awareness of my program and the sports programs. Because of quarantine, we hadn’t been this transparent, so it’s nice to get back to how it used to be.” 

   After the eighth grade orientation, students and parents were free to explore the campus, with performances by choir, live art and ceramics, booths and information on the upper campus quad. When asked if the two previous Open Houses lived up to the standards of this year’s, Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher Mr. Manalastas immediately stated, “no.” He and all of the other teachers of each educational and elective department stood proudly in front of displays of their classroom content for visitors to see and learn about the different educational and artistic programs at West Ranch. 

   Specifically, Manalastas wanted visitors to “get a lot of information for their kids.” He shared, “I want them to be well-informed before coming into West Ranch as to which kind of classes they should take. Hopefully they’ll understand or see that whether it’s science or math or English, there’s a variety of different classes that kids can take here on this campus. Not many schools can offer a wide selection of science courses.”

   At the end of the night, attendees left with more information, appreciation and knowledge about what student life is like at West Ranch. West Ranch is filled with not only numerous academic programs, but fine arts, sports, diversity and opportunity for students, presented at this year’s Open House.