The school-skier connection | AspenTimes.com
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The school-skier connection

There’s not much after-school skiing on Vail Mountain.You can’t flip on the stadium lights or move free-style practice into a frozen, snow-filled arena.For the high school athletes, there’s no choice but to train and compete during school hours. The hill can’t compromise.This creates a tricky problem for kids who want to prepare for college but are basically nonexistent during the second trimester, the major skiing and snowboarding competition season. Some of them miss so much class that they can’t be considered full-time students.”They travel extensively for training and competitions – not just in state and region, but nationally and internationally,” said Aldo Radamus, executive director of the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. “We need to let them do this without undermining their education.” So, here’s the long standing challenge for the Eagle County School District: how do you provide a rigorous, college-bound education for competitive skiers who have no choice but to miss large chunks of class time?What they need, really, is flexibility, something a traditional school year can’t provide.The school district, partnering with the Ski Academy at the Ski and Snowboard Club of Vail, has created a comprehensive solution to the problem that involves a highly modified calendar, flexible class schedules and inventive technology support. The Board of Education approved the program Wednesday.Programs like this are used at private academies and European schools, but until now, it’s really unheard of in a public school, Radamus said.Online lessons on the roadThe Ski Academy in Vail has existed for some time – the school district will just be taking over the academic side of it.The trick, according to secondary education director Mike Gass, is acknowledging that there’s no way around the busy second trimester – that’s when the competitions are. To make up class time lost during that bloated competition window, Ski Academy students will simply start the school year earlier and end later.Academy students will be in class full seven-hour days in the first and third trimesters and half days during the second trimester, when they’ll focus solely on core classes like English, math, social sciences and foreign language. In the offseason, they’ll take extended blocks of lab science and choose electives.Overall, this provides more structure and accountability, especially in the competition season, Gass said. Students will sign performance contracts to hold them responsible for keeping up with assignments. “This wasn’t as much a problem when we were on a semester schedule, but when we moved to trimesters, you’ll see that it couldn’t match up with their schedule,” Gass said. “It’s been hard on the teachers. They say it feels like they’re teaching their classes twice sometimes.”The academy will also be a self-contained program that’s still a part of Battle Mountain High School. Students will likely be based in unused rooms at Minturn Middle School. Two or three teachers who are able teach multiple subject will instruct the classes, and any specialized subjects they can’t handle will be outsourced to computer services such as Colorado On-line, which has actual teachers on the other end creating lessons and interacting with the students.The ski students will be required to have laptops so they can keep up with their studies on the road and take interactive lessons over the computer.”They would be able to work on course assignments, watch video clips, work through sound files, interact with their class,” Gass said. “We’re cleaning up their educational experience and giving them a unique support system.”Going to promThis struggle between slope time and school time has probably driven some competitive skiers away from the public schools, Gass said.A program like this though has the potential of attracting many of them back as well as a whole new generation of skiers.Emily Kloser has been home schooling her eighth-grade daughter Heidi, who’s an accomplished competitive skier. She said the new Ski Academy program will really help her family.”You want them to reach their athletic dreams, but you also want them to have a strong academic background,” Kloser said. “I see a lot of shortcomings with home schooling a student.”Students in the Academy would be considered part of the Battle Mountain High School student body and could attend school events like prom, which would be a big pull for non-traditional students wanting more social interaction, Gass said.There are currently 15 students in the elite Ski Academy and about 50 students in the less competitive Ski Club. Radamus said he will actively recruit students that would fit in the program and has guaranteed a minimum of 45 students for the program’s first year. It’s something he definitely sees growing when word gets out.”There’s a great demand for this kind of academic opportunity,” Radamus said.Ski & Snowboard Club Vail offers programs in alpine racing, snowboard, freestyle skiing, free-ride and Nordic. The Ski and Snowboard Club will still offer a tutorial program for students coming in from outside the valley.


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