Iron County to offer personalized, experiential learning at new Launch High School starting in 2020

The Royal Hunte Professional Offices Plaza building, which is expected to house Iron County School District's new Launch High School starting in the fall of 2020. Photo taken in Cedar City, Utah, May 16, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Starting in August 2020, Iron County School District will be offering a new high-tech public school called Launch High School.

District officials say the new program will offer students the chance to develop career-building skills in an experiential, hands-on environment focused on entrepreneurship and personalized, competency-­based education.

“The learning spaces at Launch High school will be varied to meet the needs of students and teachers,”  Iron County School District coordinator Cory Henwood told Cedar City News. “They will include a large makerspace with 3D printers, robotics, electronics, woodworking, fabric and other web and app design tools as students collaborate and create prototypes and launch projects.”

The program will be open to district students in grades 9-12 and will be provided at no additional cost to students or parents, Henwood said, adding that the district is planning on an initial enrollment of about 200 students.

“Parents and students will opt to enroll in this program,” he said. “The process for selecting students among the many applicants has yet to be determined but will be very soon.”

Henwood said funding for the project came from a state grant designed to “fund teachers’ additional work to plan and develop curriculum, as well as the establishment of a makerspace to implement our vision.”

Launch High School’s physical location will be inside the Royal Hunte Professional Offices plaza, the building to the east of the Iron County School District offices.

Launch High School logo, courtesy of Iron County School District, St. George News / Cedar City News

Students enrolled in Launch will attend the new school on alternating days, switching back and forth from their boundary high schools of Cedar, Canyon View or Parowan.

For example, Henwood said, students will typically attend Launch for their core classes (English, math, science, social studies) on one day, say the “A” day, then attend their boundary high school for their elective classes, such as physical education, foreign language and fine arts, on “B” days.

“They will not go back and forth between schools on the same day,” Henwood said. “Their boundary school will create a schedule of elective-only classes for these students on that B day.”

Launch High School will be one of seven such programs in the state and the only one in Southern Utah that will offer competency-based education under the Utah State Board of Education’s new framework, which allows students to earn credit and advancement based upon mastery of concepts rather than mere seat time, Henwood said.

“In this way, students can learn at a flexible pace that is right for them in order to ensure they have thoroughly learned the material and that they can move on early from topics they already understand,” he said, noting that Launch students will also have early access to college and technical classes thanks to the involvement of partners Southwest Tech and Southern Utah University’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship program.

“The development of the essential skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration and more are integrated into their classes as requirements to advance and earn credit,” Henwood added, noting that diplomas issued from Launch High School will indicate that a graduate is prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed, giving employers and post­secondary institutions greater confidence in graduates.

A recent Iron County School District news release announcing the new initiative explained the philosophy behind personalized learning, where the instruction is tailored to the student, calling it “the next logical step in efforts to ensure all students are college and career ready in our district.”

This will build upon all we know and are already doing to implement good teaching practices while providing the increased flexibility, support, and technology educators need to put students at the center of education. We recognize that each student is unique and special and that one­-size-­fits-­all approaches are less than ideal. Students will be more engaged at schools that personalize learning, like Launch High School, by having the learning path and pace customized to their strengths and interests.

According to the news release, under the personalized approach, students proceed largely at their own pace, moving on to new concepts and skills only after they demonstrate mastery of prerequisite skills.

“Personalized learning will also provide parents with a deeper understanding of how their child is progressing.”

Henwood said Launch will have areas for students to work both individually and in small groups, in addition to a wellness room and spaces for tutoring and testing.

“Students and teachers will strategically use all of these spaces to meet the needs of all students as they personalize the learning experience,” he said. “Students will work on a mix of in-person and online work via Canvas to access content to appropriately challenge and support their growth, but at least 50% of students’ time will be spent working on authentic hands-on projects to make their learning deep and memorable.”

Any students interested in attending Launch High School should begin preparing now by taking business, entrepreneurship, engineering and technology classes at their boundary school or Southwest Tech, Henwood said, adding that students should also establish a solid foundation in their core academic classes to better prepare them to apply their learning at Launch.

More information about Launch will be forthcoming, school officials said. Check the district’s website for more details.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.



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