Alternative Public school not necessarily alternative.
January 6, 2007
The Learning Center is the most enigmatic school in the Park City School District. Sometimes called the "alternative school," the center strives to leave no child or adult behind. Its focus is on those who may, for various reasons, otherwise slip through the system.
With The district looking for ways to cut swelling expenses, the Learning Center, as with all other district schools will soon be examined with a critical eye.
Learning Center principal Brenda Hedden detailed the uses of the building.
The day program, works with around 50 high school students in grades 10-12, who are having academic, social, or emotional problems, and who chose to be in the Learning Center environment over that of the high school.
Hedden said the classrooms resemble the traditional one-room school house. Some are multi-age classrooms, in others, students are placed according to abilities. "There’s nothing alternative about it. We’re just going back to our roots in education. We have a family-oriented environment," Hedden said. Students truly have a sense of belonging here," she said, which she believes helps them perform at a higher level. The core subjects are taught with the same requirements as the high school. Students are expected to set goals and attain them during their time at the Learning Center.
"It’s a fallacy that Learning Center graduates won’t get a Park City High School diploma, Hedden said. Graduation requirements are the same in both schools. Students take some of their elective courses at the high school, which is within walking distance of the Learning Center. There are no lunch-room facilities, so students eat lunch at the high school.
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Britt Banner, a junior at the Learning Center, contrasted the two schools after having transferred from Park City High a year earlier. "It’s a lot easier to learn here. It’s a slower pace with more repetition," she said. "It’s so much better than the high school a lot less drama."
The After School Program generally has three to four students at any given time, taught by one teacher, Hedden said. The program deals more with behavior issues such as attitude, tolerance and respect.
The Transition Program accommodates special-needs students, ages 18-22, who have previously earned a certificate of completion from Park City High School, but who may be having a difficult time transitioning into the community. Hedden said they learn independent living skills such as washing and drying clothes. They are assisted in finding jobs. Students also do volunteer work. Currently five students are in the program full-time, and 11 seniors from the high school are being transitioned into the program, attending mornings according to Hedden.
The Learning Center has two night programs offered through community education. One prepares non-high school graduates for an adult high school diploma, or preparation for the GED. The other class teaches English as a second language. Approximately 200 students of all nationalities enroll every year in the program, which offers night classes twice per week.
The Learning Center began as a school within a school in the late ’90s. Park City High School had a number of students who needed more individualized attention, struggling scholastically, socially or emotionally. But within the confines of a school with set rules, there was little room for the flexibility needed to help some of these kids.
The Learning Center was built as a charter school, receiving federal funding for start-up costs. The Learning Center dropped its charter status in May of 2005, Hedden’s first year at the Center.
What shape the Learning Center may take in the future is difficult to predict.
Acting Park City school district superintendent Tom VanGorder established budget committees late in 2006, to discuss ways to trim expenses that have been outpacing income. All aspects of the school district are being scrutinized.
On Jan. 16, Hedden will hand over Learning Center data, student progress reports and all other pertinent information to a budget committee for review.