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Keyes to Learning Charter students earn accolades, get head start on college
Keyes to Learn pic
Keyes to Learning Charter School students (picture left to right) Danae Johnson, Lindsey Rocha, Rachel Segars and Hannah McCoy all placed in the top four at a Veterans of Foreign Wars- Post 5059 essay contest on Wednesday night. The 5059 winner, Johnson, finished second in the VFW District essay competition with an essay on her generations role in the future of the United States. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal
Rachel Segars has been getting a jumpstart on her college career, while earning credits for high school graduation. She took both Intro to Music and Marine Biology through California State University, Dominguez Hills while still in high school. High school senior Danae Johnson was recently accepted to Cal State Stanislaus and will enter with six college units after she took Intro to Art and Intro to Music while still attending high school. Segars and Johnson are just two of the many Keyes To Learning Charter School students who are taking advantage of the school’s unique programs.Because of our flexible scheduling, students here are able to take advantage of opportunities offered by various colleges and universities.   Seniors frequently graduate having completed one to three full semesters of college-level coursework.  This saves them time and money when enrolling in college and demonstrates their academic focus and initiative,” said Keyes To Learning Principal Lee Ann Stangl.

The Keyes To Learning (KTL) Charter School has existed since 1992, when it opened as an independent-study school. Since then KTL has grown into a single-site K-12 hybrid program located in Keyes. And it’s starting to turn some heads.

Charter schools are guaranteed funding from taxpayers but aren’t held to the same state curriculum rules and regulations as traditional public schools. For high school students the freedom of choice is beginning to pay serious dividends in both time and money.

High school students take classes at area community colleges or through the California State University, Dominguez Hills Young Scholars distance learning program, which allows high school students to earn up to six college-level units per semester for $3.50 plus a textbook fee.  “We can really get through credits quick because if you take a college-level class you get double the credits because it also counts towards your high school credits,” said Johnson.

Parents from as far away as Salida and Madera choose to send their kids to KTL because the school is offering something that traditional public schools in the region often can’t offer enough of: choices and flexibility. KTL, which has an enrollment of 330 kids in grades K-12, offers a unique variety of hybrid programs in which kids can attend school on campus three and a half days a week and home school the rest of the school week. Another option is for kids to attend class one day a week and home school the other four days. Students can also choose to do independent study full-time through online programs.

The freedom for students also extends to parents who would typically be strapped by full-day school schedules.“This school is an entirely different world. When my kids went to traditional public school I felt left out a lot. I would just drop them off, pick them up and make sure they do their homework,” said KTL parent Phaedra Rhodes, who has kids in first, fifth and eighth grades. “Now when they aren’t here at school I’m involved in their learning and I have so much more time with my kids.”Parents are directly involved in their children’s education at KTL since they teach home school on the days when their children aren’t on campus in class. For Rhodes the benefits of freedom go even farther. She reports her children are much more eager to learn now, and on the days when her children aren’t in school they can go on field trips and the scheduling flexibility cuts down on sick days. “All my piano lessons are in the middle of the day now and we have the freedom to go explore other areas of interest without having to wait until its night time or after school,” said Johnson.Students even report their relationships with parents improve. “I think we really get the best of both worlds. When parents are involved you appreciate them more,” said KTL junior Lindsey Rocha. Aside from the freedom to explore alternative ways to gain an education, the curriculum for students K-6 itself is built around a freedom of balancing core subjects like math, reading and language arts with a “rich context” curriculum. Rich context basically means a more equal distribution between the core subjects with subjects such as social science, geography, science, history and electives. “At traditional schools a lot of these classes have become an afterthought where there is little instruction, if any at all. The state requires schools to test on those subjects and that’s where a lot of schools have focused their instruction,” said Stangl. At the junior high school level students are even being taught subjects such as Latin, psychology and child development. “Our Spanish teacher says it’s important for kids to learn Latin because it makes it much easier to learn Spanish,” said Stangl.

This alternative thinking is paying off at KTL. In 2009 it was recognized as a California Distinguished School and it was recently accredited for six years by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The University of California has also approved KTL high school courses for acceptance to CSU and UC colleges.

Professional recognition is one thing, but students are also getting noticed in the area. Last week, KTL students competed in a Veterans of Foreign Wars essay competition and the top four finishers were from KTL. At the Stanislaus County Office of Education Academic Decathalon KTL finished fifth out of 11 schools. “It’s a big deal when our little school beats out five other schools,” said Stangl.With possible massive educational cuts looming on the horizon in the coming months KTL could be getting a lot more calls from parents looking for something different.According to Stangl, KTL is one of the first charter schools in the state. “In 1992 when the charter laws went in, we were the 85th charter school in the state. There are now over 900,” she said. To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.