An ambitious and groundbreaking program was approved at the last meeting of the Platte Canyon School District Board of Education meeting held March 11. The board, in conjunction with PCSD Superintendent Mike Schmidt, approved the measure unanimously.

This innovative program, dubbed Platte Canyon Academies, is designed with the goal of providing “exceptional, relevant educational experiences for all students, leading to 100 percent of graduates demonstrating college- and/or career-readiness.”

The program is expected to be implemented by August of 2019. Additional purposes, goals and descriptions of Platte Canyon Academies include:

Provide to students the opportunity to increase the depth and rigor of their education.

Give students the freedom and flexibility to select which pathways they choose to experience and complete. This allows students to pursue their passions, creating increased student engagement.

Students can choose from 14 pathways that delve deeper into specific, yet complementary, disciplines. Choices include a “Design Your Own” pathway.

Give structure to a common PCSD preK-12 mission for our students.

Create an additional structure through which students can demonstrate graduation proficiencies.

Platte Canyon Academies is an advanced learning series that is available to all students beginning with Early HS at Fitzsimmons Middle School and permeating grades 9-12 at Platte Canyon High School. The program consists of four academies: Science, Technology, Engineering and  Math; Business and Global Studies; Arts, Humanities and Performance; and Health and Human Services. Within each Academy, students choose to pursue a curriculum that is rigorous, career-oriented, and relevant.

All honors and AP courses that have previously been offered are still offered, and students are not required to pursue a pathway. PCSD still offers the same college-prep program that it has for years. PCSD was recently named among the top 20 small districts in sending graduates to “top tier” colleges by A+ Colorado. A+ Colorado (formerly A+ Denver) is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to ensuring every Colorado student can access an excellent education.

Additionally, PCSD will offer Early High School Opt In Program for all eighth-graders. That program will allow eighth graders to pursue a combination of eighth grade and high school classes, with access to school clubs and activities, with the exception of athletics.

This program allows eighth-graders to take Spring 2019 high school elective classes, as well as required classes early, leaving more room for AP, STEM, Concurrent Enrollment and vocational/technical courses later as part of their high school curriculum. Higher enrollment in early required courses could potentially open up sections so that more courses (AP, pathway-specific, advanced) could be offered at the high school. The program could also have positive effects for students transitioning to the high school.

The timeline for the development and implementation of these programs is as follows:

Create a student-run business at the high school. Introduction to business class is up and running as of Fall 2018.

Adjust PCHS schedule to allow for Early High School access for FMS eighth graders – February 2019.

Finalize v.1.0 descriptions of Capstone Projects and Academies - Early March 2019.

Gain Board of Education approval for Early High School and Capstone Projects - March 2019.

Implement Early High School for Fitzsimmons Middle School eighth-graders - March 2019.

Invite and collect community, student and staff feedback - March 2019.

Begin incorporating structure into student four-year plans - April 2019.

Present Capstone (junior/senior high) courses and Intro. Construction pilots to Board of Education – April 2019.

Finalize advisor structure, rubrics, forms needed. - May 2019.

Continue to solicit and solidify community involvement - June/July 2019.

Explore possibility of specific endorsements on diplomas - June 2019.

Academies 1.0 Launch - August 2019.

As Schmidt has indicated in previous interviews with The Flume, PCSD has a decided advantage over larger districts because it can potentially tailor its curriculum to meet the specific needs, goals and educational aspirations of each of its students. The launching of these programs obviously represents an important step toward realizing that goal.

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