Nightlife at PHS


The last kids leave campus in the evening as the stars start to emerge over Piedmont’s hills. The classrooms don’t remain silent for long, and soon the lights from within the STEAM building switch on again. A new set of students begin filtering into the classrooms. Instead of trying to find seats at the back of the class, these students all eagerly vie for the front row seats. Lively chatter bounces around the classroom as the rest of the students arrive, filling up the classroom. However, these students aren’t PHS students, rather, they are adults attending the Piedmont Adult School (PAS).


Established in 1975, the adult school currently has over 700 students enrolled, according to the PAS website. The school’s motto, “education for life,” displays PAS’s role in the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) to teach students in all phases of life. 


“There’s a high level of investment and belief in the value of lifelong learning, and that totally resonates with me. I think it’s also our district saying, ‘we believe in learning the whole time you are alive’,” said PAS director Shannon Fierro.


Students can take community classes, Career Technical Education (CTE) classes, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and high school diploma credit courses.


Community classes are recreational classes where adults can learn a variety of skills from a “Paella Cooking Workshop” to “iPhone 101” and “Strength Training.” These run on evenings and weekends, all in PUSD facilities, primarily PHS and PMS, and range in length from a couple hours to weekly sessions. The 77 different classes available this spring can be found online or in the PAS schedule, the Moonlighter. The community classes collectively have hundreds of students enrolled due to the diverse and unique skills being taught.


“Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate high school. Sometimes as adults, we only do what we know how to do well. We get stuck in our lane, and the fun classes like salsa help out with that,” said Fierro.


Besides the skills taught in the community classes, many also join to find people with similar interests and for the sense of community. 


“[there are] people who take classes or people who want to be part of a community. You might not be learning a lot of new skills, but you want to come and be with other folks and share ideas and talk about your work,” Fierro said.


Just down the hall from these recreational classes is a vocational class for CTE. These are state funded free workforce development courses designed to help adults gain skills to help apply for new job opportunities. Included in this category is the new life-planning course called “Get Hired!” targeted towards graduating seniors to teach useful life skills such as starting a business, interview and application skills, and job search strategies.


“I’m very excited for this because it’s super relevant to recent high school students,” said Fierro


Finally, ESL and high school diploma classes are provided during the school day and evenings of the work week. According to Fierro, people taking the ESL classes range from grandparents trying to learn English to connect with family to foreign language teachers learning to improve their English. Often paired with ESL are the citizenship classes to help students study for and pass the American citizenship test, Fierro said.


Although the ESL classes are group classes, one thing that makes the PAS high school diploma program unique is that, due to its small size, it allows for one on one instruction, a feature unavailable at other nearby adult schools. The credits from the high school diploma program can be granted towards community college, work, or General Education Development (GED).


According to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Commission Report, while students come from all age brackets, over half of high school diploma program students are 25-44 years old, in contrast to the 80% of CTE students over the age of 60. Occasionally, students just over 18 from Piedmont or Oakland high schools will also attend PAC to complete graduation credits.


Recently accredited by WASC in 2022, the PAS is part of the North Alameda Adult Education Collective, a consortium with adult schools from Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland. Because the local adult schools are all interconnected, PAC can direct students to other adult schools that have classes not provided by PAC. Conversely, approximately 50% of students are from surrounding communities all over the Bay Area for the unique classes that PAC provides, such as contemporary Russian language and culture. Because people enroll in the school from all over the Bay Area, people with niche interests can also find a community. 


“I’ve become good friends with teachers or students who attend classes. I enjoy the variety of courses,” PAS student Elayne Copeland said. 


With the COVID-19 pandemic, the classes had to switch online, which impacted the sense of connection, with peak enrollment after the quarantine only half of the 2020 enrollment.


“I’ve taken multiple classes for over 10 years and each course was in person, but I did not enroll in any classes during the pandemic,” Copeland said. In addition to the challenge of COVID, despite being part of PUSD and using the same facilities as PHS, many community members aren’t aware of the large scale of PAS and its resources.


“I’ve heard of it, although I don’t know much about it even though I’ve lived in Piedmont my whole life,” PHS senior Jasper Tripp said.  PAS has been working on its publicity, hosting a showcase at the Piedmont Community Center on April 25, 2023.


“It was to show you and the community, ‘Did you know all this cool stuff was going on?’ We’re still trying to increase our visibility,” Fierro said.