School board hears music, charter school pitch

Ryan Reid and Wade VonHeeder played an improvised guitar version of “We Three Kings” for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education during a presentation about Skyview High School.

Staff members from Skyview highlighted school robotics, career pathway exploration activities and popular guitar class as well as a new “Zeros Aren’t Permitted” program during their school presentation for the board.

“It’s one of our classes that’s popular with the kids,” said Skyview principal Randy Neill. “We think it’s a great avenue for kids to get excited about school We just did our talent show last week and we had a lot of guitar shows.”

The Zeros Aren’t Permitted program is an expansion of a pilot program the school tested on its freshman last year.

“If teachers have worked with a kid and they can’t get him to finish their assignment, they refer him to the office ... we set up a time to get the assignment done,” Neill said.

The idea, Neill said, is to ensure students are completing assignments, passing classes, and understanding that staff members were invested in their success.

“The main thing is just to rescue kids,” Neill said.

Attendance at the after school homework session has dropped and Neill said the program has improved the homework completion rate.

“I’m seeing a great improvement,” Neill said. “For example, this week there was only about eight kids (in the after-school session). Last quarter it would be 20 kids,” he said. “So as we follow up with these kids each week, I think they take the hint ‘Oh yeah, Mr. Neill is going to come see me if I don’t get these assignments done.’”

The board also conditionally approved an application for a new charter school in Kenai after reviewing its application during their Monday work session.

The Greatland Adventure Academy and Charter School will integrate outdoor education into its curriculum.

“Core curriculum studies will be accomplished in concentrated integrated sessions in the morning hours, leaving time to engage in a variety of outdoor activities that will enhance the core learning standards,” according to the charter school application. “These activities will include active learning through exploration in hiking, survival skills, hunter education, competitive games, snow shoeing, Nordic skiing, beach combing and tide pool activities, gardening, berry picking and food preparation associated with our ‘place,’ the Kenai River watershed.”

According to the application the school may also divide some of its classes up by gender to address “learning/testing differences” in Language Arts classes.

Currently the Log Cabin Inn at 49860 Eider Drive is being considered for the charter school location.

The academy would seek to have 24-45 middle school students for the 2013-14 school year, according to its application.

The board tentatively approved the application but it is subject to board action again once its contract, location and application are finalized with the state.

Board members asked questions about the proposed new school’s science curriculum and funding mechanism.

Board member Tim Navarre said he would support the motion, though he had reservations about the school.

He questioned the school’s ability to finance itself and a lack of state support for new charter schools.

“You’ve had a lot more challenges out there than you think but I think you have, you know, the right attitude to go after it,” he said.

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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