Hurricane home to Washington County’s 4th charter school

Valley Academy, Hurricane, UT - digital rendering 2012 | Courtesy of Valley Academy, St. George News

HURRICANE – An empty plot of land in Western Hurricane will shortly become the site of an exciting new educational opportunity for Washington County students.

One of only four independent charter schools in the county, Valley Academy will offer a comprehensive educational program specializing in fine arts, performing arts and technology, with emphasis on social interaction and parental involvement.

Online enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year (construction is expected to finish in July) is free and open to all K-7 children in the district. When complete, the school will accommodate a maximum of 450 students.

“We are very excited,” said Edward Woodd, director of the school. “Everyone [on our staff] has worked very hard to make this a reality.”

Many organizations throughout the country have created grade-level charter schools, such as nonprofit groups, universities, and collections of teachers and parents. Though they share many similarities with public schools (both are funded with public money, are open to everyone within eligible grade levels and cannot charge tuition fees), the operations of most remain completely independent of local school districts.

Charter schools have long been a source of controversy. Numerous studies, including a  2009 report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, have accused charter schools of hiring under-qualified staff, having insufficient funds for teachers’ salaries and academic materials and poor academic performance. These analyses have been rebuked and debated by other scholars, leading to no significant conclusions about the impact of these institutions on the educational system.

“My experience with charter schools has been mixed; some do a decent job of educating students, while others struggle,” said Brad Christensen, principal of Hurricane Intermediate School. “I encourage parents to thoroughly investigate any public, charter or private school before enrolling their students. [Most important] is what the school has to offer your child.”

Roy Hoyt, principal of Hurricane Middle School, said, “A child with caring, competent teachers is the best way to optimize student learning [in any institution].”

The ground breaking ceremony will take place on March 10 at the Valley Academy construction site (600 North 870 West in Hurricane) from 2-3:30 p.m. VA’s board members, Hurricane mayor Tom Hirschi and Senator Orrin Hatch are expected to attend.

At 7 p.m. that same evening, the school will hold a meeting and question-and-answer session for all interested members of the public at the Hurricane Community Center.

The school is also accepting applications for board member participation.  One open board member position and two new board members are sought.  Applicants for these positions can be from any area of expertise.  Specifically sought out are applicants with a background in education, finance, and business, according to the website where further information and board member application may be obtained.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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