Charter kids look forward to class
Ben Bloomfield says he never did very well in his classes before he switched over to Prosser Creek Charter School.
Now, the eighth-grader is in almost all honors and advanced placement courses, working at a level several years beyond most students his age.
“The small classes here have really allowed me to excel,” he says, as he relaxes around the large round table in the school’s entryway with other students between classes.
When junior Matt Ambrogi first moved back to the U.S. this year, after spending the last five years in Pakistan, the thought of transitioning back into an American high school was daunting.
It wasn’t long, though, before he discovered that the small, tight-knit community at Prosser Creek (PCCS) actually made the adjustment rather seamless.
“I love the atmosphere here,” Ambrogi said. “Everyone is so friendly, and everyone knows everyone. It’s great. You see tenth-graders talking to kindergartners.”
The aforementioned stories are not uncommon at PCCS, as many students shared similar experiences when the Sierra Sun made a visit to the school last week.
Lately, with the black cloud of audits, lawsuits and rumors that seem to be hovering over the charter school, it’s easy for the these stories to become obscured – even though the students are the ones who will be most impacted by the outcome of these turbulent times.
Despite the uncertainties, things remain business as usual at PCCS and students appear happy, thriving and eager to share why they love their school.
For Josh Toft, small classes and the many opportunities to take advanced placement courses have rendered it possible for him to be graduating this year – at age 15.
“Personally, I never could have taken all of these AP classes in a large classroom setting,” Toft said. “I really need the one-on-one time with teachers that you get here. I’m one of those students that has a lot of questions in classes and here, those questions always get answered.”
It was through those AP classes that Toft says he found his mentor, PCCS teacher Ed Johnson.
“Before, I always had problems really focusing in my classes,” Toft said. “He’s been so influential, though. He’s the main reason I’ve done so well. I’ve never had a teacher quite like him.”
Rachel Wright left Sierra Mountain Middle School when she was in eighth grade having grown tired of the cliques rampant on a large campus and feeling as though she wasn’t being challenged enough academically.
She attended the Squaw Valley Academy for a short time, but left after she was unable to afford tuition increases.
“I came here because didn’t want to go back into the traditional system and wanted small classes,” Wright said. “It’s been easier to go at a faster pace here and it’s more challenging, especially with the way that things are taught here. Teachers really have the time to work with kids on these difficult classes. They make concepts easy to understand and want us to really learn the concepts rather than just memorize the answers for the AP test.”
“Teachers here have the time to see us as individuals, not just as a class,” added Tira Wickland, another student. “There’s a real opportunity to develop relationships with your teachers.”
Wright and others added that the smaller classroom environments benefit both accelerated students, as well as those with special learning disabilities and challenges.
“In large classes it was frustrating because teachers have to teach to the majority of students, which fall somewhere in the middle,” she said. “Sometimes, it would be the tenth day of class and you’d still be going over the same subject over and over again. It’s not the teacher’s fault. It’s just that they have so many students and so much work to do. But in that situation, students at the two extremes, those ahead and those behind, are the ones that suffer.”
“For me, it’s been much more advantageous to be here,” she added.
Many PCCS students said they’ve also found the smaller campus of the charter school to be a better fit for them, socially. Several described the atmosphere as laid-back, mellow and overall, friendly.
Jason Smith, who transferred over to PCCS from Sierra Mountain Middle School agrees.
“In the larger schools, if you weren’t popular, a lot of times you were treated like dirt, even beaten on, ” he said.
He remembers the first day he started class at the charter school.
“I was really shy and didn’t know anyone,” he said. “I was just sort of sitting there and people came over to me and said hi. It was really amazing. It’s also nice to be able to participate in classes and not have people snicker at you for your ideas or for being smart.”
“I like how there’s a lot of communication here,” said Bloomfield, an eighth-grader who says he has friends in all grades. “It’s also really social. People don’t care about ages. It’s easy to just be yourself.”