Hi-Lo alternative school celebrates its 40th reunion

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An alternative school, known at various times as Hi-Lo Alternative and at others as LIFE (learn in freedom education), celebrates a 40th class reunion at noon Saturday, July 23. The reunion will be held at Hurkey Creek campground, according to organizer Kathie Beale.

The school started in 1973 with 41 students from Idyllwild (high elevation) and Anza (lower elevation), hence the name Hi-Lo. It called the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA) campus, now Idyllwild Arts, its home during the academic years from 1973 until 1975. For its final academic year, 1975-76, the school moved to Idyllwild Pines Camp. Students from Anza and Idyllwild attended 8th through twelfth grades at Hi-Lo during its years of operation. By the time the school closed its doors in 1976, 150 students had passed through its doors, according to Beale.

Alum Steven Kunkle remembers a weeklong field trip to Fort Ross up the California coast and a movie the students made, “Never the Twain Shall Meet,” that placed in the Palm Springs Film Festival. “Dave Sandlin [current Idyllwild resident] was the star,” said Kunkle.

Hi-Lo was one of a number of start-up high schools that existed on the Hill and later ceased operation. It was headed by Mary Glavin and included teachers Bob Davis and Ellen O’Tool. The most enduring of them, Desert Sun School (later the Elliott Pope Academy), operated for 65 years before closing its doors in December 1990.

The Idyllwild Arts Academy, which began in 1986 as a boarding high school for the arts, with an academic year running from September through May, is still in operation. The Idyllwild Arts Foundation, of which the Academy is a part, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, having begun in 1946 as a summer program of workshops and classes in the arts, initially for adults.

Anyone wishing more information about the Hi-Lo Alternative School reunion can contact Beale at kathernbeale@gmail.com.

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