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Learning Center hopes to mainstream all students

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

The Park City Learning Center is shifting its focus.

Principal Brenda Hedden has outlined several goals for the center. One of those is to integrate the students there back in to Park City High School.

She said to keep the students at the center could be detrimental and she refuses to stifle their growth.

The learning center can only offer core courses and not advanced placement or honors classes, opportunities Hedden would like her students to take advantage of.

It’s not "alternative education"

The center is part of Park City High School and many think of it as a place for alternative education, although Hedden does not like that expression.

"I’ve never been fond of the term ‘alternative education,’" she said.

With it comes assumptions she believes originated when alternative education was formed to benefit students who had behavior problems, gotten pregnant or been recently released from detention.

"Now it’s all walks of life," she said.

Hedden noted there is nothing alternative about their approach, their curriculum is identical to the one used at the high school, along with the text books.

"We’re pretty much an extension of PCHS," she said. "The only difference is class sizes."

The enrollment cap is placed at 18 students.

Hedden said many of the students at the learning center are exceptionally bright and some just need a little extra help.

"They’re brilliant kids, they have to learn to believe in themselves," she said.

Of the 43 students attending, there are at least 30 different reasons they have come to the center.

An increasing number of people have come to recognize the center as a valuable resource and their enrollment is up. Last year they started with 38 students and finished the year with 57. They began the 2006-07 school year with 43.

Of the 20 seniors in 2005-06, four did not graduate and three dropped out early in the year. A little more than half of the graduates continued on to college or professional school.

A few of the goals at the Learning Center

In addition to helping the Learning Center students return to Park City High School, Hedden has many other goals in mind.

She would like to transition some of the high school students into the adult high school program sooner if they will not be able to graduate with their class. Hedden said before students enrolls in an adult high school completion program they must be 18 and their class must have graduated.

She expressed some frustration that if three of her students last year had been able to go directly into the high school completion program they would not have dropped out and they would be finished by now.

Sticking to its student focus the center recently increased its field trip budget and Hedden wants to ensure that is used well.

"We feel that experiential learning is very important," she said.

Certain activities, such as the water rafting trip they do to kick off the year, help to build a sense of community, make everyone feel accepted and give students an opportunity to get to know one another. Hedden said she constantly strives to help students make friends and form a support network.

Earlier intervention is another goal Hedden would like to focus on. She said this past summer the counselors at Treasure Mountain International Middle School did an excellent job of helping to identify students who could benefit from their programs. The center’s summer school enrollment was up to 26, compared to past years when it has been closer to a dozen students.

Hedden also wants to, "support the high school as much as possible."

As renovation continues at Park City High School, space is at a premium. Chinese language courses have been relocated to the learning center.

Hedden and her staff are also in the final stages of completing a five-year plan for the center which outlines its mission, vision and beliefs. It will also outline what the center wants to offer students and how to help them meet their needs. In October the plan will be presented to the board of education.

One goal carries over each year.

"Our goal every year is to have our enrolled students experience success in their classes," Hedden said.

Other programs offered at the center

In addition to the core high school courses taught at the learning center every day the building is used for a number of other district offerings.

On Monday and Wednesday English Language Learner programs are hosted there while the adult high school program is held Tuesday and Thursday.

"We’re in a district that truly supports education in every definition of the word," Hedden said.


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