Rock University High School to offer students "an alternative"

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Nick Crow
Sunday, August 10, 2014

JANESVILLE—Beginning this fall, the Janesville School District's Academy for International Studies will be replaced on the campus of UW-Rock County with a new school option, Rock University High School.

“It's a full-time thing," said Rich Gruber, chairman of the Rock University High School board. "The Academy for International Studies was typically a three-hour course offering. This is a full-time high school experience for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

"We use 21st century educational approaches that are not used within a traditional mainline high school," Gruber added. "It really has an emphasis on international partnerships.”

The new charter school will use STEAM curriculum—science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics—to develop a personalized approach to education for each student, said Jane Thompson, the new school's dean of students.

"It really truly is integrated and is crossing levels between sciences and English language arts, between mathematics and the social sciences," Thompson said. "These core academic growth areas are prevalent in all of our curriculum.”

The new school will act independently from other Janesville high schools and will issue its own diploma, Gruber said. The school also will be open to sophomores where the Academy for International Studies was open only to juniors and seniors.

"None of the other charter schools really cover what this high school is about," Gruber said. "There certainly is a need for it as evidenced by our enrollment and the support that we've received from our sponsor, the School District of Janesville."

The school currently has 37 student enrolled, Thompson said. To receive initial grant funding of $150,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 40 students must be enrolled, she added.

Thompson said she doesn't anticipate any problems with reaching the target number.

"It's very exciting," she said. "The kids are very excited. I asked them why they choose Rock University High School and many of them gave very similar answers. They are just looking for something different. They are tired of sitting in the four walls of the classroom. They want to be a little more independent. They want to be able to go at their own pace."

Rock University High School offers college credits for some courses and does not charge additional tuition to attend.

"Some (students) are looking for AP calculus, some have exhausted the curriculum in science or math, some are looking for Algebra II and to strengthen their skills," Thompson said. "They are interested in all kinds of areas."

Japanese, Spanish and English language courses also will be offered.

“I'm excited about the progress we're making," Gruber said. "We're going to open our doors in September and we're on target with our expectations.

"I think it's just going to be a remarkably wonderful opportunity for young people who are looking for an alternative to a traditional classroom to really find ways to excel within their academic experience.”

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