Learning Academy Focused on Personalized, Project-Based Learning

The Park City Learning Academy has not only changed its name, it has changed the way its students are learning.

The Academy provides Park City High students with an alternative setting for core class instruction in English, math, social studies and science. Elective are taken at the high school.

“The PCLA is a setting for students looking for smaller class sizes, personalized and project-based learning, and an adult mentor to support,” said Principal Tracy Sjostrom.

The PCLA is open to any future 10th-, 11th-, or 12th-grade students “who want to be part of a close-knit group of students and staff focusing on social emotional well-being and academic achievement,” Sjostrom said.

Students can register for the PCLA by picking up an application at Treasure Mountain Junior High or the Academy. Summit Learning is a personalized approach to teaching and learning.

Sjostrom said Summit Learning combines core values, what science tells on how students learn best, and cutting-edge research into a school experience that is tailored to community needs.

The three pillars to the student experience at the Academy are 1) project-based learning where students work alongside teachers and classmates on real-world projects; 2) one-on-one mentoring; and 3) individualized pathways that empower students to set goals and understand content in a way that is best for them.

“We offer exploratory field trips, positive supports, and added encouragement. Students do not fall through the cracks,” Sjostrom said.

After-school Violin Programs Combine STEM with the Arts

Anna Stampfli moved to Park City six months ago with her husband, four children, and two dogs. “I wanted to expand my business to the west coast and Park City afforded us the lifestyle change and location we wanted for our family.”

A former high school and junior high math teacher for more than a decade, she has seen her share of students who are uninspired to learn. Stampfli, an accomplished violinist, thought she should try bringing her musical talent into the classroom. And it worked.

She founded Arts Youth Empowerment, an organization that was structured to support the integration of comprehensive arts education for schools, inclusive of both performing and visual arts, in addition to providing after school arts programming to supplement existing curriculum. The vision and mission of the program is to support and create a strong connection for the students between the core subjects and the arts.  Now a Park City resident, she wanted to bring that same program to schools here.

After-school violin programs recently started at Parley’s Park and Trailside Elementary Schools. She calls them “integrated youth learning orchestras.”

Students initially focus on the violin, learning the fundamentals of playing a stringed instrument and developing a close connection with their core subjects. They are grouped into three teaching groups: Kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade. Each after-school program meets weekly for 60 minutes. Her ninth-grade daughter is helping with the classes.

Each school will have a performance for parents, will perform as a district ensemble at Brigham Young University, and will appear with the Park City Children’s Choir.

Some 150 to 175 students are taking advantage of the after-school program at the two schools. Arts Youth Empowerment provides the violins and rents them to the families for a nominal fee. Some of the violins broke during her recent move to Park City and Stampfli said the second and third-grades will do a STEAM project to repair some of them.

“My mission and vision is to provide inspiring education for all children.” she said. “We are teaching the students there is a correlation between the violin and math.” She is developing projects with both schools related to STEAM areas of study. She is donating all supplies for STEAM projects.

“This program will help supplement Park City School Districts already outstanding curriculum and further establish it as one of the greatest educational systems in the nation,”  she said.

“The Park City After-school Program is extremely fortunate to partner with the new-to-town Arts Youth Empowerment and the Park City School District PTO/PTAs to offer a violin program to all of our students,” said Todd Klarich, director of Community Education for PCSD. “I have had the opportunity to witness the first few classes and the students could not be more excited. This partnership is the beginning of a wonderful opportunity that will empower the children of our community with the gift of music that will last a lifetime.”

A $5,000 grant to support the program at Trailside was provided by the Park City Education Foundation. “We have held this $5,000 for several years, as the donor wanted it to go to a violin program, specifically,” said PCEF Executive Director Abby McNulty. “As a major partner to the district for the After-school program, we are thrilled to help add this opportunity to the curriculum.”

Stampfli is anxious to implement the program at Jeremy Ranch and McPolin Elementary Schools once there is more funding, and the district is excited to see the positive change initiated through this year’s pilot programs.

PCLA Principal Named Interim Director of Special Education

Tracy Sjostrom, principal at Park City  Learning Academy, has been named interim Special Education Director for Park City School District.

Sjostrom has a master’s degree in Education, Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah and holds a bachelor’s from UCLA. She has taught special education and at-risk students and has served as a specialist, assistant principal and principal in Utah and Washington.

Tracy is an outstanding administrator with a deep understanding of special education. She brings a unique skill set with her experience working with students with unique emotional and behavioral needs,” said Ben Belnap, Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness. “Tracy’s experience and expertise will continue us down the path of enhancing our processes and systemic approaches to supporting our students and their families.

 

 

After-School Programs Create Unique Opportunities for Students

Park City is fortunate to have outstanding community partners supporting vibrant after-school programs for elementary students. Last year Park City School District and Holy Cross Ministries Combined its after-school programs into one unified program and it’s proving to be a big win for students.

Holy Cross Ministries has offered its own program for underserved children since 2000.  “Holy Cross Ministries has a long history of providing services within the Park City community. We work very hard to make sure the needs of the underserved are met,” said Patricia Sanders, Director of Development and Communications for HCM. “Last year we were able to partner with Park City School District in our after-school programming. That combination has improved the program and created a better experience for the students.”

Todd Klarich, Director of Community Education for PCSD, said more students are being served and that is only possible because of the partnership with HCM and other community partners. “We appreciate all the efforts that have made this program be so successful and we value this  partnership which has created many more opportunities for all our children.”

The four pillars of the after-school program are:

– STEM and Literacy: Students read for 30-45 minutes every day then alternate between art and science projects during enrichment time.

– Homework Help: Students work on homework for 45-90 minutes each day with help from teachers and volunteer tutors.

– Physical education and Exercise:  Students have recess 30 minutes each day and go on field trips twice a month with Kids Outdoors.

– Field Trips: Students go on field trips in Park City and in Salt Lake City.

The programs run Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Fridays from 12:30-6 p.m. It is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and a monthly fee is charged. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

After-school programs are offered at all four Park City School District elementary schools — Camp Moose, Camp Hawk, Camp Falcons, and Camp Trailblazers. Parents can still register for the programs going on now, and next year’s registration begins in April.

Additional community partnerships include: Park City Education Foundation, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Basic Recreation, PC Marc, EATS Park City, Summit Land Conservancy, Youth Sports Alliance, Park City Community Foundation, and Latinos in Action.

For more information visit the Community Education website here.

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About Holy Cross Ministries: Holy Cross Ministries (HCM) is a non-profit organization in Utah that responds to the underserved community’s need for health and wellbeing. HCM’s  history of providing services to vulnerable families in this community dates back to 1875, when the first two sisters of the Holy Cross arrived to establish a hospital for injured miners and railroad workers. In their first three months of service, they opened a hospital and a grade school. They established an innovative prepaid health plan for miners in which participants contributed $1 a month while in good health, which entitled them to free admission. Over the years, as the healthcare environment and delivery system in the United States became more complex, the sisters decided to move away from the acute hospital setting and to look at new and innovative ways to reach out to the underserved and underinsured. In 1994, the Sisters created Holy Cross Ministries (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) to continue their tradition of compassionate service. Today, Holy Cross Ministries continues to serve the poor, underserved and marginalized, through health outreach, education, and legal services.

Chronic absences a growing concern in Park City schools

Park City School District has created a committee to look at the growing concern of chronic absences. Chronic absenteeism is defined as a measure of how many students miss a defined number of school days (often around 15 or more days) for any reason.

The committee, which will meet monthly until May, consists of Superintendent Ember Conley, district administrators, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, Latino outreach specialists, and community partners.

During its first meeting last week, the committee was presented data by Caitlin O’Connor, the district’s statistician. About 2 percent of the district’s students have severe chronic absences (miss 20 percent or more of school days). Some 10 percent of students have moderate chronic absences (miss 10-19 percent of school days).

In 2017, the students who missed the most school included minorities, ELL students, and economically disadvantaged students.

The leadership at Park City Learning Academy is extremely happy to see a committee studying this issue. “We strive to help students get on a meaningful path toward college and/or career and have the opportunity to mentor individuals, provide project-based learning and meet students at their level with personalized learning,” said Principal Tracy Sjostrom who is a member of the committee. “Students need strong cognitive skills to thrive in today’s world. If they are not at school, we can’t guide them to reach their full potential. I am grateful for various stakeholders coming together to put an evidence based attendance plan in place. With 30-50 percent of PCLA students missing one or more periods a day, it is dire that we do what it takes to decrease chronic absenteeism.”

 At the national level, more than 7 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically at risk. Chronic absences can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.

The PCSD committee’s goal is to reduce the number of unexcused absences by at least 50 percent. It will also ensure consistency between all schools by upholding Utah Administrative Code and following the PCSD Attendance Policy. 

PCSD closing all schools to open enrollment for 2018-19

The Park City School District Board of Education voted Nov. 21 to close all its schools to open enrollment for the 2018-19 school year. No new out-of-district students will be accepted next year. The board made the decision to maintain program offerings while holding class sizes to manageable levels.

Out-of-district students who are currently attending PCSD schools will be allowed to remain within the school system, but if they are moving from one school to another in 2018-19, they will need to submit an open enrollment application.

PCSD employees will continue to be allowed to register their children in PCSD schools.

The district currently has 168 out-of-district students attending its schools, 33 of which are children of employees.

 

Breakfast served at all PCSD schools

The Child Nutrition Services Department wants to remind parents that breakfast is served in all schools within Park City School District.

The School Breakfast Program is a national program that provides millions of children a nutritious morning meal each school day. School breakfast is a critical support for struggling families trying to stretch limited resources and provides children a significant portion of the nutrition they need to learn and be healthy, according to the Food Research Action Center.

“Kick off your child’s day on a positive note, start with a healthy breakfast that includes fresh fruits and whole grains,” said PCSD Director of Child Nutrition R.J. Owen.

For a nominal fee, students can eat breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts. Cost is $1.20 at elementary schools, $1.35 at Ecker Hill Middle, $1.45 at Treasure Mountain Junior High, $1.50 at Park City High, and reduced breakfasts are $.30.