The Park City Learning Academy is making changes this year which school district leadership hopes will create a more wholistic program for high school students who need more assistance than what the standard classroom offers.
Traditionally, the Park City Learning Center, now Learning Academy would enroll students who were dealing with chronic absenteeism or in need of support to make up credits. Associate Superintendent of Wellness Ben Belnap has an example of the changes this year.
“The high school team has been doing a great job working with us on implementing certain interventions and determining their effectiveness on credit recovery or absence or whatever it is before they make that referral and so we need to give them some time to determine whether or not they’re effective. Because our goal is to have them in the least possible restrictive environment.”
Last year there were about o 60 kids who attended the Learning Academy which offers a smaller, more individualized learning environment.
“In order to launch this program successfully, we re starting off with a really small amount. So, right now, we only have 12 students. We have two teachers. We have a rec therapist that runs experiential learning. And we have our counselor and social worker that does social emotional learning.”
Belnap says many of the kids who were in the program last year are matriculated at the high school and are using a model they call protected scheduling. He says the best place for students is to be in the high school with their peers rather than isolated in a specialized program.
“So, they have smaller class sizes at the high school, and they’re being followed very closely with the counselor and our counselor that was working with them at the Learning Center, Shannon Haas is following up with them at the high school. So, they’re on our radar and we’re ready to bring them back over, but so far things have been going pretty well for the most part for them.”
The idea, Belnap says is for students to come to the Learning Academy for shorter time periods and continue doing their core classes in the high school.
“Instead of coming over for an indefinite amount of time, we’re trying to get them in and out in just a term to kind of hit the reset button.”
Belnap says they’re trying to reintroduce a passion for learning and an excitement to come to school by finding different modalities or getting kids out into nature.
“When students lack self esteem and they lack motivation, I think often-times we can isolate that to them having lost a passion to something earlier in their life. And, so that’s essentially our goal. Turn back the clock. Let’s look back to when you were a younger student. What was it you were so enthusiastic about and maybe we can help you channel that again?”
Belnap says they can take up to 50 students, primarily grades 10 through 12, in the Learning Academy and he expects they’ll be at capacity next semester. Other circumstances, like coming out of recovery, would allow for a ninth grader to attend, especially in the case where a student needs to matriculate slowly back into the mainstream.