At Plumas Charter School’s July board meeting, executive director Janet Wolcott gave an update on the new Indian Valley Academy, which opens in the fall for grades six through eight, and will come under the Plumas Charter umbrella.
The IVA is, in essence, a “school within a school” — a brick-and-mortar, full-day academy, which will become one of PCS’ offerings. In this way, IVA can make use of PCS’ charter, which provides it with accredited oversight and funding.
“We have our charter in hand, which enables us to take public money and democratize it,” said Wolcott, “so I think that’s what we should do.”
The Indian Valley Academy’s mission statement reads, “Indian Valley Academy will be a demanding, exciting, and kind school. All people involved in the school will encourage an atmosphere of mutual respect and personal responsibility.
“The goal of the school is to prepare the students with the skills and habits they will need in order to be engaged learners for the rest of their lives. An essential component of this is to attend to the personal development and civic responsibility of each student.
“The school’s curriculum will foster an appreciation for the individual student and his or her place in the school, the community, and the world. All students will be immersed in rigorous academics and meaningful extra-curricular activities supported by a close-knit community of teacher/advisors which will enable them to achieve their leadership and academic potential, to become creative thinkers and compassionate human beings. Failure will not be an option!”
Wolcott gave a short background, explaining Sue Weber had reacted to the groundswell of concern from the parents of Greenville High School students, which was losing students and classes at a dizzying rate.
Weber began looking into alternative school models that might be a match for the Greenville community. She researched “successful schools using a model of a strong culture of high demands and rigor, but lots of support to make sure the kids get there,” said Wolcott.
Citing both “direct and indirect” reasons for PCS’ involvement, Wolcott explained the charter school has noticed its flexible, independent study approach has “served them well,” but some “high-risk kids have needed more from us, and so that’s the direction we’ve been taking this school in — more structure, more teacher guidance, more demands, more mandatory components of their education.”
She said it made sense, then, to bring the IVA into the PCS fold and to watch the structured, brick-and-mortar version of alternative education as it progresses.
In addition, an “indirect” reason to support IVA is that PCS always encourages creativity and risk taking to its students. “It makes sense to model this kind of behavior for our students. You’ve got to take chances, you’ve got to try things ... our kids need to see us stand up and say, ‘hey we’re going to try something. And, maybe it’ll work, and maybe it won’t, but we’re not going to let fear of failure keep us from trying’.”
Wolcott also pointed out the rigorous academic plan of the academy underscores the possibility of success for all, when students put in the necessary hard work. Further, the success of such a program could have a positive ripple effect throughout the community.
Forty students applied for the academy and Weber capped enrollment at that point, Wolcott reported. Since then, “PUSD is making noises about improving the high school and Sue (Weber) said that five are potentially leaving us” and returning to GHS.
PCS hired Lyn Williams as the teacher for IVA. An “outstanding young man” according to Wolcott, his primary experience is in outdoor education as an Outward Bound instructor.
Wolcott said PCS’ required student-teacher ratio is 25 to one, so the IVA could lose 15 students and “we still wouldn’t be teacher heavy.”
The school will be in Greenville United Methodist Church buildings on the corner of Pine and Church streets, just off Highway 89.
IVA held a “logo design/swim Party” at the home of Bill and Judy Gimple July 21. A poolside potluck dinner for students and parents followed. In addition to choosing a logo, students chose different colored shirts for each grade: eighth-graders chose blue and white, seventh-graders chose red and yellow, and sixth-graders chose yellow and black.
At the time of the party, there were 32 students enrolled in the Academy.
During the PCS board meeting, Bill Gimple said once parents judge the success or failure of the new pilot “academy” program at GHS next year, he expects to see another influx of students to Indian Valley Academy.
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