Independent study and ski academy at Tahoe Truckee schools allows students to pursue dreams in high school |

Independent study and ski academy at Tahoe Truckee schools allows students to pursue dreams in high school

Kelli Twomey
Special to the Sierra Sun

World-class skiing is just one of the many recreational amenities in Tahoe Truckee and local youth take full advantage of the multitude of athletic offerings the region provides.

Students at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District are highly active and talented and many compete at a high level.

To accommodate their students the district offers skier and independent study contracts at several of their schools. They also have a special program, the North Tahoe Ski and Independent Study Academy, that allows students to pursue their athletic dreams and still attend a comprehensive high school.

How does it work?

“I travel a lot for ski racing, and I’m grateful to have the flexibility and support I need to race and still attend a regular public school.” A.J. Hurt, North Tahoe High School senior

Recommended Stories For You

Students enrolled in the Independent Study and Ski Academy take a minimum of three or four classes at North Tahoe High School and the rest is completed through Cold Stream Alternative, online courses, or at Sierra College.

North Tahoe High School has a dedicated program coordinator who creates an academic study plan for each student at the beginning of the year, provides independent study hall support for students throughout the week, monitors student assignment completion and grades, facilitates student travel and independent study when absent from school, and acts as a liaison between students, parents, and teachers.

To be in the Independent Study and Ski Academy, students and parents must sign a contract outlining the requirements and maintain a 2.8 GPA. Each student and their family also work closely with the school counselor to develop an individualized schedule and four-year plan. A huge factor in the success of this program is the support from the district's classroom teachers. They are essential to the program and support students in achieving their goals through their flexibility, creativity, and availability in providing long-term independent work when students travel.

For the past 12 years, the program has been a success and a huge benefit to students based on its partnerships, committed staff, administration, and community members.

How it all got started

North Tahoe High School launched the program in 2007 as a Ski Academy to support scholars who were competitive skiers. The school accommodated their training, travel, and competitive needs so they could be successful in a comprehensive public high school and experience its diversity and opportunities.

North Tahoe graduate Johanna Monforte was instrumental in bringing this innovative program to North Tahoe High School.

"We needed to take advantage of the destination we live in and give our students the ability to do more things," Monforte said. "This program really fills a need in our community and serves our kids well. I am very proud of what we created and excited about where it is today."

Based on the needs of its students, the academy has expanded to support other types of competitive athletes. This program has supported nationally competitive alpine skiers, nordic skiers, freestyle skiers, big mountain skiers, car racers, BMX racers, dancers, and equestrians. These students work hard to achieve both their academic and athletic goals and are frequently ranked at the top of their class academically.

"The Independent Study & Ski Academy is a great example of the many ways North Tahoe High School strives to meet the diverse needs of every student," said North Tahoe Principal Joanna Mitchell. "In the past, highly competitive athletes missed so much school that they were unable to be successful in comprehensive public schools and were forced to seek expensive private school options.

"Thanks to the flexibility and support of TTUSD, we are able to offer students an option that allows them to remain competitive on the national and international level and thrive in our schools."


A.J. Hurt, an incoming senior and downhill ski racer at North Tahoe High, is among the athletes to take advantage of the program. Last year, she had the opportunity to race in three World Cup events, won two national titles, and podiumed in several North American Cup Races. Hurt qualified for the B Team of the U.S. Ski Team.

"I travel a lot for ski racing, and I'm grateful to have the flexibility and support I need to race and still attend a regular public school," Hurt said. "North Tahoe High School, Cold Stream Alternative and all of my teachers, make it possible for me and other North Tahoe students to compete, stay on top of our classes and be part of a regular school.

"There's not one other racer on my U.S. Ski Team that is able to attend a public school!"

Visit for more information on the independent study and ski academy program.

Kelli Twomey is coordinator of parent & community relations for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Contact her at or 530-582-2585.