After nearly a year of construction delays, Silver Summit Academy is open | ParkRecord.com

After nearly a year of construction delays, Silver Summit Academy is open

At the Silver Summit Academy, the tables and chairs are in place, lessons are uploaded on the students' online accounts and they are starting to walk through the doors. After a year of construction delays, the school is up and running as it was intended.

The academy, located at 6407 N. Business Loop Road in Park City, is the newest school in the South Summit School District. The school officially launched last year, but students met for classes at the Oakley City Hall and the district's office in Kamas because the building was undergoing construction during the pilot year. They moved into the new space, which was mostly complete, for the last month of school in the spring. Now, the students will spend the whole school year in the new building with new teachers, classes and schedules.

Principals of both the academy's elementary and secondary programs said parts of the school's organization have changed this year based on feedback received from teachers, students and parents. Students in the elementary program, for example, will be able to choose which days they will attend school rather than days being assigned. Second- through fifth-graders can attend from two to five days a week, while kindergarten and first-grade students can choose three to five days a week, said Louise Willoughby, principal of the elementary program.

Secondary students (grades six through 12) are still expected to be in class from Monday to Thursday. Fridays are optional for students who want one-on-one time with teachers or to work on a project, said Jeff Greiner, principal of the secondary program. This year, the school adopted loose daily schedules for the students rather than letting them move between courses on their own. Classes now have set start and end times, but students can remain in a classroom if they are finishing up an assignment, Greiner said.

"We are not pulling you out of science to go to English because of some arbitrary schedule," he said. "For the most part, kids will flow through the building."

Despite the changes, the schools are not forgetting their core values. The academy focuses on STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and utilizes online coursework to supplement lessons taught in the classroom. Students can move through subjects at their own pace.

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In the elementary program, that means students are not divided into courses by grade, but by ability.

"Otherwise, kids start identifying with just that one grade and they are really hard on themselves if they don't quite match up, or they can be very haughty because they look around and say, 'Alright, I am the top dog here,'" Willoughby said. "If they are in with everybody, they don't do that that much."

In the secondary program, students are in most classes with others in their grade, but Greiner said that students can move through the subjects at different speeds. He said having coursework readily available online allow teachers to provide specialized learning.

"Everyone is in their own spot. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be," he said.

Having the lessons online is also beneficial for students who travel or participate in competitive sports and need time off to train and compete, Greiner said. Willoughby said that parents can use the online programs to pre-teach information to their children who might be falling behind.

The teachers at the academy spent a large part of the summer creating their own curriculum for online and in-class learning so they are able to easily hop between different lessons for each student.

Greiner said that this model can be time-intensive for teachers, which is why the school has smaller class sizes of about 20. There are currently 110 students enrolled in the secondary program and 73 in the elementary program. There are waiting lists for both schools.

Greiner said that because of the high demand, the school hopes to continue to grow, but not so quickly that it is not able to maintain small class sizes or provide individualized support.

This year, the elementary program added one teacher and the secondary program hired four teachers to teach photography, art, science and engineering.

Greiner is eager to start the new engineering course and to see the students in action, particularly in the long-awaited makerspace, which has 3-D printers. Willoughby said that she is happy to be in her own space now that the building is finally complete. Secondary classes started on Aug. 13 and the elementary program is set to start on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

"We are really excited about this year," Greiner said. "I think this is the year that we finally get to start being what we are. We aren't just trying to survive like we were last year."