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Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The Breakfast Club. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. These box office classics depicted the quintessential high school experience in America in the 1980’s. Today, for many students, high school looks very different. New and emerging high school models offer differences in curriculum, teaching style, physical setting, hours of study, technology use and, of course, cost. Welcome to high school 2.0!
PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL MAGNET PROGRAMS
Spotlight On: Academies of Loudoun
The mission of the Academies is to provide a 21st Century Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education that creates opportunities for LCPS students and faculty to innovate, explore, research and collaborate. Conceptualized over a decade ago, the Academies of Loudoun project will be completed by the start of the 2018-19 academic year. Part time within LCPS. 2018-2019 enrollment forecast: 2,500 students, including students enrolled in the Monroe Tech program. (lcps.org/Page/130415)
INDEPENDENT PRIVATE HIGH SCHOOLS
Spotlight On: Loudoun School for the Gifted
This small private school has the distinction of being the only private high school for intellectually advanced students in the area. Founder Dr. Deep Sran’s philosophy is simple: “Hire great teachers, offer rigorous content, emphasize discussion and reflection, go deep rather than wide, invest in the humanities, trust your students, build connections outside the classroom and maintain a healthy school culture.” One parent says, “Our daughter loves that LSG assigns classes by ability not age. This school does not boast; instead, it delivers on creating a challenging, engaging variety of classes designed in many ways like college seminars.” Full time. 2017-2018 enrollment forecast: 60 students. (loudounschool.org)
ACCREDITED ONLINE HIGH SCHOOLS
Spotlight On: George Washington University
Online High School
This fully-online accredited college preparatory academy is designed for motivated students who are seeking a rigorous education in preparation for acceptance into a top tier university but who need more flexibility than a traditional brick and mortar school can offer. One student wrote, “I particularly like how I can work at my own pace; if I struggle with a concept, I can spend more time on it; if I understand a topic, I can move past it to the next one.” Summer Academy and Immersion programs bring students together to collaborate in person. Full time. 2017-2018 enrollment forecast: 125 students. (gwuohs.com)
INDEPENDENT ONE ON ONE HIGH SCHOOLS
Spotlight On: Fusion Academy Loudoun
Fusion teaches customized content at each student’s individual pace. Fusion offers one teacher and one student in one classroom for every class. Fusion works well for students who struggle in traditional schools for a variety of reasons including those who suffer from emotional challenges that require a small, safe, intimate environment, those who have learning differences, those who are gifted and need to move at a faster pace and those who need flexible scheduling due to their outside work commitments such as athletes and performers. One parent says, “We know our son is a smart wonderful kid and that his previous grades didn’t reflect this for many reasons; one being he was bullied and nervous most of the time at school so he couldn’t perform in that environment. I am truly so happy we found Fusion for our son.” Full time. 2017-2018 enrollment forecast: 30 students. (fusionacademy.com)
SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING CENTERS OR “UNSCHOOLS”
Spotlight On: EMBARK Center for Self-Directed Learning
EMBARK is not a school; attendance is voluntary, classes are optional and there are no grades or assessments. Instead, EMBARK is, “A community of learners who wish to have more autonomy in their learning and lives,” says Founder Andrea McKay who taught in Montessori schools for 10 years. EMBARK opens in Leesburg this fall and is designed for very independent students with an intrinsic motivation to learn. 2017-2018 enrollment forecast: Fewer than 25 students (embarkcenter.org)
HOME SCHOOL COOPERATIVES
Spotlight On: Compass Enrichment Center
Compass is a center where home schoolers come to socialize and take classes together. Compass offers more than 20 high school classes (in addition to 75+ classes for PK-8) in subjects ranging from Algebra to Shakespeare to Cooking. Class size ranges from 6-12 students and registration is a la carte so students can take between 1-8 classes per semester. Compass also offers extracurricular activities including clubs, contest, National Honor Society and more. Motivated 8th graders may enroll in high school classes. 2017-2018 enrollment forecast: 70 high school students (compassclasses.com)
If public high school is not meeting your child’s needs, Loudoun has many grades 9-12 programs to consider, with more opening every year.
CHRIS CROLL serves as Executive Director for Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students (locopogs.org). In her spare time, she writes about inspiring people and worthwhile causes. Chris lives in Leesburg with her husband and two children.