Following months of discussion with the Park City School District, the Winter Sports School has applied for charter school status through the state, diverging from initial attempts to submit an application with the school district.
"We bring a very unique program to the table," said Rob Clayton, the WSS Head of School. "We know our program works. To touch more people, to make the program more accessible, that is our motivation."
"We want to work with the school district but still keep the ball rolling with the application process. We don't want this to fizzle. Right now, the state decision will determine if the idea is viable, if the calendar is viable, the curriculum and the programming viable. The big question is if our system is acceptable in the public sector; will it work?"
WSS, a full-year high school for students in grades 9 through 12 with an academic calendar opposite from a typical school year, runs from mid-April to mid-November each year to give students the opportunity to focus on training and competition during the winter months.
Originally, WSS hoped to join the school district, where the school would go through a review process on the local level before seeking state approval, increasing the likelihood the school would be approved to receive state funding. In applying directly to the State Charter School Board, which is scheduled to hear applications from across the state on Wednesday, WSS is moving forward without the direct support of the Park City Board of Education.
"The state works on different timeline," Clayton said. "... The timelines for that are reaching further out.
"Right now, we have retooled the application and handed it over to the state. Next Wednesday, I will be going to the state to present our application and see what they say. We want to continue moving forward."
Incorporating WSS into the school district was formally introduced in a Board of Education meeting in September where members agreed to create a committee that would work with WSS on creating an application that would need to be approved by the board and the State Charter School Board. Since then, the PCSD has put the issue on the backburner to work on teacher contracts, plan for hiring a new district superintendent, incorporate new programs and support the two newest board members.
"We fully understand their plans," said Mo Hickey, the board president. "They let us know about the application right away, and we support the school moving down as many paths as possible to get the charter school status to fruition. We explained to the school leadership and the board that with the number of things going on, we are in slight holding pattern."
If approved, WSS will receiving state funding in the hopes to expand the program to more students, especially from the local area. The Utah Office of Education State Charter School Board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in their offices located at 250 East 500 South in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit www.schools.utah.gov.