Alternative Schools Booming In Utah

KSL TV, May 9, 2003
http://tv.ksl.com/

Alternative schools are taking root across the country in the form of public charter schools or private independent schools. Here in Utah, state education officials say we’re in the midst of our own shift toward more specialized learning.

If your child is a wiz at math, music, or maybe creative writing, there may soon be just the school for him or her. Alternative schools in Utah are expected to number more than forty by the fall of 2005.

Ruby Ostermann: “MOM, I DREW YOU A LION.”

Two-year-old Ruby Ostermann loves to draw. Her brother Oskar spends hours inventing new tricks. Their mom says she’s looking for a school that, simple as it sounds, encourages individuality. She’s settled on a program new to Utah this fall and known around the world as the Waldorf approach.

Phoenix Ostermann/Waldorf School Parent: “THEY’RE TRAINED TO LOOK AT THE CHILD AS AN INDIVIDUAL, THAT EACH CHILD HAS A GIFT AND THEY’RE TRAINED TO BRING THOSE GIFTS OUT.”

Housed in a small west valley building with the woods near the Jordan River as an exploratorium, The Waldorf system of teaching revolves around understanding of nature, the earth’s organic materials, and how human beings can connect with those roots. Students of Waldorf schools study all the core subjects but use wood instead of plastic and wool in place of polyester.

Dr. Hallie Robbins/Waldorf School of Utah: “FOR INSTANCE YOU HAVE A CHILD IN 1ST GRADE LEARNING TO KNIT A SCARF.”

THE NATURE-BASED APPROACH OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IS AMONG A GROWING NUMBER OF SPECIALIZED CURRICULUMS THAT ARE GIVING UTAH PARENTS ALTERNATIVES FOR EDUCATING THEIR CHILD.

Richard Kendell/Utah Deputy for Education: “I THINK PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR OPTIONS. THEY WANT MORE CHOICES.”

Utah is expected to have 22 charter schools state-approved by this fall, not counting independent or private institutions like the Waldorf School.

State Education Director, Rich Kendell, says the new crop of specialized schools and the trend toward more tailored education aren’t necessarily a knock on traditional public schools, but a service to the diverse interests of Utah kids.

Rich Kendall/Utah Deputy for Education: “EVEN IF IT’S JUST A BUD OF AN INTEREST, WE’RE GOING TO TRY AND DEVELOP THAT.”

A public charter school to watch for this fall is the state’s first high-tech high school called the Salt Lake Academy for Math, Engineering and Science. The Governor is looking for about 250 kids to make up the school’s first class.

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