Shining Stars School fills a niche for Park City families | ParkRecord.com

Shining Stars School fills a niche for Park City families

Director says kindergarten program offers several unique elements

CutliThe kindergarten program at the Shining Stars School aims to provide a nurturing small-school environment for students that also gets them ready to hit the ground running in first grade. Tasha Hardy, director of the school, says that is one reason among many that parents choose the school, which is currently registering students for the 2017-2018 school year.

As the Park City School District has expanded its kindergarten offerings, more residents are choosing to enroll their children in the program.

But Tasha Hardy says the district's kindergarten, despite the accolades it's received in recent years, isn't the only option for Park City parents. She is the director of the Shining Stars School, which offers co-op preschool and kindergarten programs that aim to provide a learning experience families can't get anywhere else in Park City.

While it may not be what every family chooses, Hardy said the school fills a unique niche. And as the school opens kindergarten registration for the 2017-2018 school year, she's hopeful parents will take the time to learn more about the program.

Most important is the co-op element of the school, with parents required to assist the teacher in the classroom four or five times a school year. Hardy said that reinforces the school's philosophy of engaging parents in their children's education.

"That means we start from the family and bring that into the classroom because we feel like parents are truly children's No. 1 teachers in life," she said. "So we're hands-on and involved."

Nicole Bencik, an administrator at the school, added that, as beneficial as it is for the students to have their parents at school periodically, it's also a great opportunity for parents to play an active role in their children's learning. She said almost every parent ends up looking forward to a day spent in the classroom.

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"From a parent's perspective, the fact you can be involved in the classroom to whatever degree you want to be is incredible," she said. "You don't ever get that time back again."

Another element Hardy said distinguishes Shining Stars from other kindergarten programs is that it brings in outside specialists from the community to teach the students. For instance, a fitness expert will host physical education classes, and Spanish-speaking members of the community will deliver basic Spanish lessons.

"We love that about the school," Hardy said. "Because we are a private school, we are not held to the restraints that other schools are, like the testing and some other things that have to happen. We definitely follow all the state-mandated things and guidelines, but we love that we can go above and beyond to bring in a lot of outside people into our school."

Julie Hughes, another administrator, said the school is also ideal for parents who are concerned about their kids entering an elementary school environment during kindergarten, which can be intimidating for some children.

"This is such a good way to transition them from a preschool where they are required to learn more and sit more, but then not have that full day," she said. "This really is perfect for easing them in."

Hardy noted that the program's small-school atmosphere is why a lot of parents ultimately choose the school.

"We are what's right for a lot of families, for those people that are seeking something a little more hands on," she said. "We always joke that Shining Stars is a little bit of a bubble. It's one more year of keeping the kids in that bubble, where it's not quite the big elementary school yet and everything involved with that. There's still a niche out there for sure, but it's something people have to seek a little bit more."

At the same time, the program challenges students enough that they're ready for an elementary school environment when they enter first grade, Hardy said.

"It's important for us, knowing that our students are going from here into our school district, that they're prepared and ready," she said. "… The key is making sure that it's an easy transition. Our goal is that it's really easy for our kids to walk into a classroom — they're not intimidated academically."

The Shining Stars School is currently accepting kindergarten students for the 2017-2018 school year, though the preschool program is already full. For information about the program, or to schedule a tour of the school, visit shiningstarsparkcity.org.