Mountain Peak: An exercise in basics
That’s why the school’s curriculum features daily physical education classes for all students, from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade – one of the few private or public school in Colorado to do so. Only 6 percent of schools nationwide have daily gym classes.
“We feel it (physical education) is an important part that is missing from our educational system today,” said Tom Buckett. “In fact, we’ve had parents choose Mountain Peak because of our commitment to physical education. They know their children need some activity during the school day in order to perform better academically.”
In fact, 11 of 14 studies conducted in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “found positive associations between physical education and indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behavior, and/or academic achievement.”
Gym is just one component of the Mountain Peak philosophy. The school strives to educate the whole child. In Mountain Peak speak, that means creating individualized educational programs that “... reach each student where they are,” said Buckett. Teachers can change the core curriculum according to individual children’s needs; adding more difficult challenges for more advanced students and working with struggling students until they become proficient and are ready to move on. With class sizes limited to 16 students and given that teachers and students are together for two years, they get to know each other very well.
Core curriculum, known as “Balanced Curriculum” at Mountain Peak, includes the basics: mathematics, reading and language arts, social studies and science, all starting in the pre-K classroom. French language studies start in kindergarten and go all the way through sixth grade. Children learn colloquialism as well as French and other world cultures in cross-curricula platforms. The three Rs, along with social studies and science, are complimented with art, music and technology classes.
And don’t forget gym class. Every day.
The curriculum is based on Colorado state standards, which, according to Buckett, are met or exceeded. Because grades are grouped together – first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth – the younger students are introduced to more advanced material, so that when it comes time for them to actually delve into a topic, they are already familiar with it.
“We believe a focus on the basics gives our students a strong academic foundation,” Buckett said. “A strong foundation supports lifelong learning, which provides many opportunities for growth.”
Mountain Peak celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Its earliest students either are entering college or already have enrolled.
“Seventy-five percent of our early students – and keep in mind that our very first students were often struggling in other schools – have gotten scholarships,” Buckett said. “One of our big success stories is a student who received a four-year, full-ride scholarship to Valparaiso University (in Indiana) to study meteorology.
“But it’s the students who started with us in pre-K and kindergarten who are now in middle school that are taking classes one and two grade levels above the grade they are actually in who are continuing their success after they leave here. That’s something we’re very proud of.”
Tuition at Mountain Peak falls between that of other private and parochial schools in the area, coming in at about 50 percent of what other independent private schools charge.
“When we opened up, we wanted to be an affordable option for Longmont,” he said. “Other schools were very expensive and most families had to drive a long distance to get to them. We created a school whose tuition closely mirrors what the state gives to a public school per student and we’ve stayed very close to that over the years.”
Annual tuition rates start at $2,060 for 3-year-old preschool. Pre-kindergarten tuition is $4,220 and fulltime K-6 tuition is $7,100.
The lower tuition costs are accomplished by sticking to the basics. There is no pool, no auditorium. “We get down to the pure education and teaching these kids to be prepared for the next generation,” said Buckett. “And they don’t miss any of those bells or whistles.”
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