SMMUSD HDQTRS — Nearly two weeks into the school year, there seems to be minimal issues in the reorganized House System at Santa Monica High School.

That’s according to district officials who reported during the Board of Education meeting on Thursday that the controversial cost-cutting move to reduce the celebrated network of small learning communities from six “houses” to five went seamlessly.

The House System was created about six years ago to give students a more personal learning experience, assigning them to one of six houses — each of which are named after a letter in Samohi — that are staffed with a principal, administrative assistant, advisers, student outreach specialist and teachers.

Facing a challenging financial outlook due to funding cuts from the state, district officials voted earlier this year to eliminate one house, saving approximately $550,000. Samohi parents rallied in opposition, noting that the system has led to a jump in test scores and has helped narrow the achievement gap.

The transition started at the end of the previous school year when all students were notified of their house assignment, keeping seniors with the advisers they have been with over the previous three years.

All students, advisers and one outreach specialist in the A House were reassigned to the M House, while the teachers were distributed among the five houses. Sophomores and juniors who were previously in the M House were reassigned to the other houses and were given the opportunity to rank their choice of placement. Teachers also received orientation to help with the transition.

“I was on campus the first day of school and there were really no incidents,” Sally Chou, the chief academic officer for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said. “Kids went to class and a lot of kids really didn’t even look for their house, they were just going … to pick up their schedules.”

Officials also decided to keep the existing naming scheme, removing one letter rather than adopting the other alternative — Vikes, an abbreviation of the school’s mascot, the Vikings.

Another report is expected in the next few months.

“It (went) much better than some parents and even some of us on the board thought it would,” Barry Snell, the vice president of the school board, said.

Enrollment slightly up<p>

The economic downturn is suspected to have had some impact on this year’s enrollment, which according to preliminary figures went up by about 35 students over what was originally projected, bringing the total to 11,600.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Mike Matthews said that the increase is due to a combination of factors, including former private school students returning to the district and the board’s decision earlier this year to permit more students who don’t live in Santa Monica or Malibu.

There are now 1,543 students on permit, about 168 of whom are new this year.

The enrollment count will not be official until October. More students are expected in the coming weeks.

“There are still people moving into the area and are late to start the school year,” he said.

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