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PCSD Learning Academy Takes A New Direction


Changes are coming to Park City School District’s Learning Academy in the next school year. Adjustments to administration and faculty will occur. The new model is designed to expand intervention for students who are failing classes and to provide an alternative credit recovery so they can graduate.

Assistant Superintendent of Wellness, Ben Belnap says when a student is failing more than one class, there is a deeper issue going on and the new Learning Academy model will help to address some 200 Park City students who fall into that category.

“So, the vision behind this is can we identify those students and bring them over to the Learning Academy in more of a therapeutic atmosphere. We’re going to change our staffing around, work with them on the core instruction but not on that standard block schedule. And, then bring in social workers, bring in experiential learning and recognize that these students probably need more to enrich their learning. Also, to kind of discover the reason behind why they’re struggling so much.”

Belnap says the program currently serves a population of students who may encounter difficulty with the normal high school structure.

“Students who may struggle with anxiety about going to the big school. Or, maybe they learn better in smaller groups. We have about 70 to 80 students over there. They’re there for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it could be attendance issues. And we can work with them to get them there. It could be credit. We do some credit recovery over there. We’ve got some students who, you know, are credit deficient.”

Master Planning has been in the works in the district for about nine months and the Learning Academy, going forward, is considered part of the high school.  It will remain in the same building it currently occupies, east of the high school, but the learning model will reflect the future master planning tenets of the school district. For now, they’ll have two teachers assigned to the center. Belnap says next year will be a pilot and as the program needs change, they’ll adjust.

“As we roll this model out, we expect that it will grow and we’ll be able to add more staff. As far as the actual master planning piece, we are really going to make a push to brand this Learning Academy, not as separate building, as separate entity. We’re not going to hire another administrator over that. It’s going to be an extension of the high school.”

They’ve been laying the groundwork for next year with a team of staff members from the high school and Treasure Mountain.

“With the task of rolling out what the scheduling piece would look like, the credit recovery piece, and what the daily programming would look like within the new structure.”

Belnaps’s department is fully staffed. New Psychologists, Counselors and Social Workers have been hired in the past couple of years.

“It’s been a great year. We’ve really ironed out some of the kinks and the school board has been incredibly supportive, and the new superintendent. And, I think by mid-year, next year, we should be smooth sailing.”

They’ll look at a few data points over the next few years to determine how well the intervention programs have worked. They’ll use absenteeism numbers, referrals for discipline or mental health issues, and how Learning Academy students are complying with credit requirements for graduation. 

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