Park Academy has a seventeen-year history of serving students with dyslexia and other learning differences. There has always been a slight difference in our elementary/middle school students’ profiles and our high school students’ profiles. Our elementary and middle school students often present with dyslexia as their main challenge, while our high school students struggle primarily with executive functioning skills and often other co-occurring and impactful difficulties.
In 2015, the state of Oregon passed legislation that seeks to identify students with learning differences earlier in their education, which led to more awareness and interest in our elementary and middle school programs. We began to see mission-appropriate applicants at the 4, 5, and 6th grade levels and would often have zero open spots to accommodate those students. In an effort to fill available spots in our high school, we began to focus more on core content areas, leading to increases in rigor and the academic legitimacy of our high school program. Meanwhile, more and more students who had progressed through the Park Academy elementary and middle school program were ready for a larger school experience by their freshman year. While students often come to Park Academy with school based social and academic trauma, we found we were having dramatic and profound impacts on their academic ability, self-esteem, and confidence leading to broader high school opportunities. As appropriate applications for our high school program dwindled, the need and demand for Park Academy literacy based services expanded dramatically. At the same time it became apparent that our current facility and size limitations were preventing us from providing a high school experience including social, programmatic, and extracurricular opportunities that were so important to our current and potential students.
In 2021, the Park Academy Board of Directors began a new phase of strategic planning. Many options for the high school were considered including building a new facility that could house 100 – 150 students, however, it was determined that we would still not be able to provide the larger school setting that so many students who were choosing to leave Park Academy voiced desire for and could not simultaneously improve and expand our literacy based services for a community clearly in need of increased help and support.
In early fall, 2022, the Park Academy Board of Directors voted to close the high school. The school will continue with its traditional “brick and mortar” high school program for this (2022/2023) and next school year (2023/2024). Alternative programming options will be considered for years 3 and 4. The Board has committed to providing paths to graduation for any currently enrolled high school student. They are committed to informing families so that potential transfers can be sought during the traditional application season. Park Academy will not be admitting any new students into the high school as we phase out the program.
This is a very bittersweet announcement. This decision was made based on enrollment trends, mission alignment with Park Academy’s focus on Language Processing based interventions, as well as research supporting the long-term impact of early literacy intervention. Although we are very proud of the academic strength of the Park Academy High School it was apparent that under the current enrollment constraints and facility limitations we were unable to provide a robust and comprehensive high school experience for our current and future students wants and needs. It is our hope that this will allow us to better serve the community but also realizes that this decision, impacts students at the individual level.