The Park City School District has instituted changes this year to the way students are referred to the Learning Academy which is an alternative learning environment. The results are fewer students at the academy and more main streamed into the high school.
Last year, there were about 70 students enrolled at the Park City School District Learning Academy. Associate Superintendent of Wellness, Ben Belnap says they’re trying to reset the referral model and meet the needs of each student.
“Every child has a civil right to be educated in the least possible restricted environment. And if we do not have a solid referral process that shows we have supported this student to the best of our capabilities in the high school, whether it’s in a general education class or in smaller class sizes and through remediation and that kind of thing…that if we just say oh that kids not working out in my class and I’m going to make a phone call and get them over into this alternative education setting, that’s a violation of that student’s civil rights.”
Belnap says there are several criteria for a student would go to the Learning Academy.
“One primary thing we look at is the student in a crisis right now. Like a teen pregnancy, we would consider that. And, in those events, the process is not so arduous to demonstrate that our teachers have done A, B and C unsuccessfully before they can move them over. So, that definitely is a faster avenue for those types of students.”
About 30 students who were in the Learning Academy last year have been matriculated back into the core classes in the high school this year. Belnap says with 70 classes being taught each period in the high school, it’s not a burden.
“Our teachers are going into the classes with those students to help the teachers however they can follow up with students on the assignments they’re missing. That kind of stuff.”
The new method for identifying which students should be in the Learning Academy will take this school year to establish.
“We’re trying to essentially reset this model to be sure that we’ve got all the supports in the high school so we know the students there are there because they are truly alternative education students and not just students that are maybe just a little more difficult to manage in class that the teachers have traditionally been able to refer to the counselor who then can refer to the alternative school.”
Belnap expects there will be 60 to 70 students enrolled in the Academy by the end of this school year.