Snowy Range Academy is opening its doors to the public from 9-11 a.m. today to let parents looking to enroll their students for fall 2018 see how the school operates and answer questions about how charter schools differ from other schools.
Albany County School District No. 1 Assistant Superintendent John Weigel said the school district’s public charter schools, such as Snowy Range Academy and Laramie Montessori School, are similar to the other schools in the district except for a few differences. He said at the district level, the main difference is the schools govern themselves and receive money from the Wyoming Department of Education.
“What happens is the state department of education allocates a certain amount of money for that school, in the funding the district receives,” Weigel said. “Our district takes that money, gives it to them and they run their school with that.”
Snowy Range Academy Principal Dawn Wilson said because the schools are able to decide how they run, students at the school are more exposed to topics such as foreign languages, English, math and other subjects. At schools such as Snowy Range Academy, the students are exposed to thought processes not commonly taught at other district schools that could help improve learning, she said.
“We use (a curriculum that goes back to) basics, so we cover a lot of history and science starting in kindergarten,” Wilson said. “We also accelerate our math program by a full year, so by the end of kindergarten they have finished first grade math.”
The district’s charter schools also use a different admissions system, she said. With the exception of the University of Wyoming Lab School, the charter schools are the only ones in the district that use a lottery to choose who to admit into the school, based on students that have completed enrollment requirements, Wilson said.
“We have a letter of intent that needs to be completed online that we ask is completed by April 1.” she said. “Then have some placement testing, and we do that because our program is accelerated and if you are looking to enroll from first grade on, we want to make sure we are setting students up for success.”
In recent years, the school has added additional classes, allowing more students to enroll and making it easier for students to get into the school, she said.
“Historically it has been difficult, but since we have opened up new sections, we now have two classrooms for kindergarten, first, second and third grades next year,” Wilson said. “That has helped, especially our primary grade enrolment, really not be as difficult to enroll in as we have historically been.”
She said the open house events the school is hosting gives parents a chance to see how different education at Snowy Range Academy is from other schools in the district.
“We purposefully do open houses because we are different from the neighborhood schools and we want to make sure families that are interested in enrolling in Snowy Range Academy have a good (idea) of how we are the same and how we are different,” Wilson said. “We recommend that everyone come into the building during one of those open houses so they can see a typical day around here.”