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Independence is Provo City School District’s alternative high school and has been around for many years. However, it is quite possibly our least understood school. Independence is a hidden oasis for many students who have struggled to find their place at a regular high school. The smaller class sizes, individualized programs and attention from caring teachers make it a perfect fit for many.
Chris Sorensen became the principal of Independence last year and has worked carefully with a committee of community, school and district representatives to create a new view for Independence. If you were to walk the halls of Independence, you would notice a culture of inclusion and unity. This is a culture that has been carefully cultivated. Teachers encourage students and students support each other in an atmosphere that feels like home. The majority of students at Independence come to the school deficient on credits in some way and often have a difficult path to graduation. By creating a warm and inviting environment, Independence feels they can help more students find opportunities for success that will ultimately lead them to graduation.
Independence is fully invested in its students and has aligned itself with the Board of Education’s desire to increase graduation rates to at least 91% district wide. To do so, the following programs and practices have been implemented for this school year.
A typical day at Independence consisted of eight periods of classes. With this new trimester schedule, that schedule has shrunk to six periods. There are multiple benefits to having fewer classes during one day. First of all, this provides students more time in each class. Students now have more time to work with their teachers and grasp a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Secondly, there is less that a student needs to remember and worry about for the day. They can focus solely on the classes that they do have that day.
The trimester also allows for shorter time frames for grading. Instead of grades being released four times throughout the year, grades will now be released six times during the year. There are many advantages to this system. Students are updated on their progress more frequently, allowing them to more easily stay on top of their grades and providing a “fresh start” more frequently. It also provides a less daunting scenario for students that may fall behind. In a shorter grading cycle, there is less work for the student to have to potentially make-up. This new schedule also allows easier and more frequent enrollment opportunities for those coming from a traditional high school.
Compass Pre Adult Ed
Compass was created to accommodate students who find they need to work during the day or have health or anxiety issues that keep them from a full day at school. This program focuses on the core credits that are needed to receive a GED. It runs between 12-3 p.m. and students ideally come four days a week. However, the staff will work with students who need exceptions. The hope is that when a student starts to make progress with credits and begins to gain traction in school, they will recognize that graduation is within reach and either go back into the day program or continue in the program with the diploma as their goal.
After School Programs
The purpose of after school programs is to provide extracurricular activities to support and enhance academic success. Running Monday through Thursday, the after school program runs run like an extension of the school day. There are two periods (much like a period of class during the regular school hours). There are multiple subjects and activities that the students can participate in and tutors are always available. These subject/activities include: homework help, credit recovery, college/career readiness, art, dance, drama, film documentary, fishing, sports (including cross country, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading and soccer), and music classes.
Packets, summer school, independent morning study and online school are a few of the options offered to students to help the recover lost credit. Offering smaller class sizes and emphasizing work at school as opposed to homework also help students recover credit and avoid falling further behind. Teachers are making connections with students on a daily basis for grade tracking and credit recovery.
Independence High School is a place where students know that they are supported. The school has focused on improving student success, which will, in turn, lead to increased graduation rates. Each new or updated program at the school has been designed to elevate success for every student at Independence. Through the work of a unified faculty and staff, Independence has created a new view designed to facilitate the path to graduation and life after high school.