A Closer Look at SD 51’s Academic Options
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Whether a student has a different learning style or maybe a medical problem that affects their ability to learn, a way of teaching them is growing in popularity. It’s referred to as an "Academic Option" and grants students a different curriculum that is more independent, so kids feel right at home no matter what they're learning style is. “People are thinking and realizing that there is more than one way to learn. So given that it's the 21st century, we need to explore more options,” said Ron Roybal, director of Academic Options. “There are lots of kids that are impacted and they're not successful in traditional schools.” One of the innovative programs that continues to demonstrate such success within the district is Valley School. “It’s an alternative and independent learning style,” said Brenda Witte, principal at Valley School. “They have to do 70 percent or better here and go here half a day, and then they do a second placement.” The school, which started with about 10 people, is now pushing 170 students and has several kids placed on a waiting list. Teachers don't hold the students to a quarter or semester timeline, but they are accountable for the same curriculum and the same standards of the school district. “I came here to hopefully catch up and get my credits back,” said Robert Warren, student at Valley School. “And I have been, so it’s been nice.” Senior Holly Schild says the school has been helping her achieve goals she never dreamed of when she went to public school. “I would get behind or they would move too fast for me and I wanted to get done fast, but I felt like I didn't understand,” said Schild. “There were so many people that they didn't have enough time for me. So coming here was really helpful.” Valley School offers classes to students from 8th- 12th grade, and ranges from kids with attendance and discipline problems, to students taking AP classes. “They just need a different structure in their lives, a different learning style, for whatever reason,” said Witte. “When you see them graduate and come out of it at the other end, it makes it all worth it.” “We need to look more ahead and talk about how they can compete globally tomorrow, rather than teaching them about yesterday,” said Roybal. School District 51 will be hosting an Academic Options Fair next Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Bookcliff Middle School, where you can learn more about this kind of learning.