Local charter school offers unique approach to learning


by Becky GINOS

bginos@davisclipper.com

NORTH SALT LAKE—Now that it’s spring, many schools are hosting kindergarten roundups to introduce parents and children to what’s in store when these new students start in the fall.

In addition to traditional elementaries, families have the option of several charter schools in the county. Wasatch Peak Academy in North Salt Lake is one of them.

“I like being in a school where I know every student by name and know their parents,” said Principal Amy Pilkington. “We have to meet all the same criteria as the state but we come up higher than surrounding schools. We go further and deeper than the basics.”

Pilkington is especially proud of the service-learning component at Wasatch. “They learn to problem solve and get involved in the community,” she said. “Our fifth-grade organized a veterans 5k event that raised $2,000 for Continue Mission. The students do small things inside the school by giving service to each other.”

Wasatch Peak prides itself for offering advanced classes and other experiences. “The sixth grade goes to the Teton’s Science School for a week in the spring,” said Pilkington. “It’s a fun and unique educational experience. Not a lot of elementaries get to travel.”

Spanish is taught in every classroom for 30 minutes each day, including kindergarten. “We still teach the core subjects in English,” said Pilkington. “High academic performance is important at Wasatch and we don’t want it (Spanish) to be at the cost of core subjects. Students can usually go into advanced Spanish classes in junior high. Our goal is for them to leave reading and writing in Spanish.”

Through a digital teaching and learning grant, children have access to one to one technology, she said. “But we still value that face-to-face interaction in class every day.”

There are currently 426 students at the school and students are admitted through a lottery system. “We use that system to be equitable to all families and we run it year round,” said Pilkington. “Once a family is in their siblings have preference. It’s rare not to get in siblings.”

Pilkington said a lot of parents with academically advanced children enroll in Wasatch Peak because they may not feel their needs are being met in traditional schools. “We try to meet all needs in house,” she said. “We work hard to keep class size small and we have lots of extra support help.”

Literacy is particularly good, she said and math too. “I have no remediation in my sixth grade reading. They’re all on level. Overall, we give them a really good academic program. Thirty percent of the sixth grade tests into advance placement math (in junior high).”

Wasatch Peak is tuition free. “Thanks to a generous community we’ve been able to get some technology donations by parents,” said Pilkington. “It ties the parents to this. There is loyalty and commitment. We want them to have a vital role with education.”

Becky Akerlow, a parent and member of the PTO, has children at the school and one starting kindergarten in the fall. “We love Wasatch Peak,” she said to parents at the roundup. “It’s a rare opportunity to be part of this community. Your children are in such good hands with these teachers. It’s an opportunity for them to have a wonderful head start. When you’re involved in your child’s learning it’s so much better.”

“Kids become authentic problem solvers through community service,” said Pilkington. “They are learning to become a part of the community in a meaningful way.”

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