The National School Choice Week campaign said the event “shines a spotlight on all effective education options for children” while promoting greater access to challenging, motivating educational options – from high-performing public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling.
Jill Petersen, administrator at Alpine Academy, said the school was glad to join in the National School Choice Week festivities happening throughout Nevada and the nation. She said charter schools in Nevada are a new idea many parents and students are still adjusting to. She said programs such as this week’s, help unmask the benefits of charter schools.
“In Nevada charter schools are a little newer and they used to kind of have a bad reputation as being a last chance school or a dropout school,” Petersen said. “The first year we opened that is what we had. We had juniors and seniors coming to us with only three credits and that made it seem like a last-chance school.
“Each year we made sure we had better and better staff and now the word is out that this is a great school and you are going to get a great education and be prepared for college or a career. Now, because that has spread, we are starting to get a variety of students.”
Petersen said the size of the Alpine Academy provides an environment that is conducive to learning and helps students overcome any shyness they have. She said “most charter schools have a focus and they are just a smaller environment to help students achieve,” and added that Alpine Academy’s specialization lies in business and technology to give students a direct route to a career or college program.
“The main thing that is so great about our school is we are small. It is a small environment and we have amazing teachers,” she said. “Some of these kids have fallen through the cracks. Some of them are shy. Some of them have never had a chance to shine -- academically or socially. They come to a small environment and they are able to succeed.
“Our average class size is about 17 students per class and because we are not part of the teachers union our teachers are on a one-year-only contract. So right now we have an amazing staff and and any of the students here will tell you that the teachers are great. We hire people who care about teenagers and are great at teaching.”
Petersen said the ability to keep a top-notch staff, striving to be great, brings an inviting presence to the campus. She said students who have experienced, or are experiencing, hardship in their home and personal lives can find solace in a charter school that caters to the success.
“If the teacher is great you are going to get a great education,” she said. “We need our home lives to improve in our nation, but if they are not then at least you have a great teacher in front of that student trying to help him achieve, find out who he is and be the best he possibly can.
In June, you will find many of our students are sad that school is closing down because this is their family, and you don’t find that in a lot of schools.”
Thursday night’s spaghetti feed and family night was just one of many fundraisers and family events Alpine Academy plans to host in the near future. Family engagements, according to Petersen, are events where students are able to work on the other major focus of the academy: “character strengths.”
“One of the things that is really important to us is teaching character education,” Petersen said. “How well they develop these character strengths will directly impact how they do in college, such as having zest or grit or self control and gratitude. Those have all been studied and have been found to make a difference in one’s life after high school. They help them get ready for college and if they don't go to college at least they are ready to go and they will do well in a career as well.”