The only new school in Tooele County this year threw its doors open Monday and welcomed 472 kindergarten through sixth grade students to walk its halls for the first day of school.
Monday was the opening day for Scholar Academy, Tooele County’s second charter school, which is located at 928 N. 100 East, Tooele.
“We are full and have a waiting list of 185 students,” said Sandy Shepard, school director and one of the founders of Scholar Academy.
Charter schools are publicly funded independent schools authorized by the Utah State Office of Education. They are public and open to all students, charge no tuition, and have no geographic boundaries for attendance.
Scholar Academy students gathered at 12:30 p.m. Monday in the school gym for their first assembly.
They quietly filed into the gym dressed in their school uniforms: a white, lime green or royal blue top with khaki pants or skirt.
After a flag ceremony by the Tooele City Volunteer Fire Department, each student received a free, brightly colored backpack loaded with a variety of school supplies courtesy of Teleperformance USA.
“The most unique thing about Scholar Academy is the way we do leveled learning,” Shepard said. “We meet with a case management team once a month and assign students to groups for math and reading based on their level of performance.”
Scholar Academy also has service learning as part of its curriculum.
“We teach service across the curriculum,” Shepard said. “For instance, a class studying U.S. history in social studies might choose to do a service project for veterans.”
All students at Scholar Academy will start learning Spanish this year.
Sandra Arslanian, a native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in Tooele for five years, is the Spanish teacher.
“I think elementary students will learn Spanish faster than high school students,” she said. “They have more passion and excitement about learning.”
The goal is to prepare the students to enter a second-year Spanish class when they enter secondary school, Shepard said.
The 43,000-square foot building, built for Scholar Academy east of Macey’s Food and Drug in Tooele City, was completed earlier this month. It has 24 classrooms, office space, a kitchen and cafeteria, media center, computer lab, and a gym.
The building was designed with a separate cafeteria and gym to allow use of the gym while lunch is served and provide two activity rooms, according to Tye Hoffman, a member of the school’s board of directors.
Shepard said two years ago, Tooele County parents convinced her to start efforts to open a new charter school in Tooele County.
Excelsior Academy, Tooele County’s first charter school, opened in 2009. It was at full capacity with 675 students and had a waiting list.
“I had parents, who know me from when I worked in the Tooele County School District, approach me and suggest that the county needed another option for students,” Shepard said.
Shepard served as the principal of Tooele High School and was the Tooele County School District’s director of elementary education for two years before becoming the principal of Wasatch Peak Academy, a charter school in North Salt Lake, in 2007.
She left Wasatch Peak to open Scholar Academy.
“Our opening day went real well,” Shepard said. “We’re looking forward to a great year.”