Academy planning on 9th grade next year |

Academy planning on 9th grade next year

Jared Whitley Of the Record staff

Students at the Park City Academy recreate a Nativity scene, an example of how the school incorporates Christianity into its curriculum. Scott Sine/Park Record

Next year, Park City Academy is planning to boldly go where it’s never gone before: high school.

The academy, the largest private school in the Park City area, has only offered classes up to the eighth-grade, at which point graduates have traditionally continued at Park City High School, a private school in Salt Lake, or a boarding school elsewhere.

But in large part because of the Park City School District’s grade realignment, academy officials want to start a ninth-grade next year.

According to headmaster John Gutman, academy families don’t like the idea of a student graduating from eighth-grade, then going "back to middle school at Treasure Mountain" for ninth-grade. "They don’t like that configuration," Gutman said. "It generated enough interest with the grade realignment. I think it’s a good time for us to be doing it and we have some real serious parents who want to see this happen."

Marci Landis wants a ninth-grade at the academy for her daughter, a student there now. "I feel that Park City Academy is a well-rounded education that can only enhance my child’s experience in life and prepare her for college," Landis said.

She appreciates the school’s small class sizes, the honors-level classes, the field trips, study of literature, and the Christian aspect of the school. The academy is a non-denominational Christian school in Pinebrook, formerly called Carden Christian Academy until about five years ago. Lessons regularly include Bible study and other religious elements. For example, on Monday, the students recreated a play of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," based on C.S. Lewis’s book cum blockbuster movie, which is steeped in Christian theology. "A whole lot of kids dressed up and went to a midnight showing when it first showed. They were really excited about it," Gutman said. But finding enough students could be a challenge. Gutman says the minimum students they need for ninth-grade is eight. There are 12 students in the academy’s eighth-grade this year. "We feel like we are ready. A lot of it will depend on a commitment right after the first of the year," he said.

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The other private school which includes middle grades is The Colby School, which graduated eight eighth-graders this year. Colby has no immediate plans for a ninth-grade, so perhaps the academy could pick up some Colby grads. "We’d be interested in them if they’re interested in us," Gutman said. "They’ve expressed an interest in a ninth grade as well, I don’t know how far they’ve gotten with it." Gutman hopes to extend into a 10th grade the subsequent year, but if they don’t he wants "want to make a smooth transition to PCHS and other high schools our students go to." The academy is also arranging for its ninth-graders to participate in sports with in the Park City School District. "We do have some athletes that would like to do that," he said.

Lora Payne is excited that her eighth-grade son will be able to stay at the academy next year. She said "the proof is in the pudding" as far as results from the academy are concerned. "I have two older children who have achieved large scholarships at boarding schools on the East Coast thanks to the education at the middle school at Park City Academy," Payne said. A teacher at her son’s school in New York told Payne that "you’ve sent me this little genius." Payne said, "Well I know he’s not a genius, he just had a great teacher who prepared him so well."