Love Your School is pleased to introduce another recipient of the A for Arizona Expansion and Innovation Fund Small Learning Communities (SLC) grant,  Vail Unified School District! At Love Your School, we’re all about celebrating the unique and innovative options available to families, including these new communities.

Vail Unified School District is a rural K-12 public school district that serves students and families of the community of Vail and portions of Tucson. The school district serves approximately 14,000 students, many living in rural areas spanning 425 square miles.

What inspired this school to launch an SLC? Here’s the story. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vail Unified School District (VUSD) lost approximately 1,400 students, of which 457 chose to be homeschooled. Many families were worried that their students were falling behind because of virtual learning and decided to take matters into their own hands. 

Unfortunately, for the remaining 900 students, homeschooling and other methods of education aren’t options. There are many students who live in remote areas without cell service or reliable internet coverage. Coupled with limited resources and access to teachers is only widening the learning gap. Especially for students in high school who are struggling to graduate. 

The students in the remote part of the school district have proven especially difficult to serve amid school closures, given their limited access to internet or cell service. These students have rapidly fallen behind in coursework due to their inability to participate in remote learning sessions. 

In response, VUSD designed a Small Learning Community that gives targeted students access to special services that include two full-time special education teachers in the Vail Innovation Center, a full-time counselor, a speech pathologist, and a school psychologist. 

VUSD understands that education should not be defined by where students receive their education but how. This SLC model will allow families to choose components of district support they want to opt-in to, including academic, socio-emotional, or extracurricular. This model of public stackable education is paving the way for enhanced educational opportunities post-COVID. 

VUSD believes that Small Learning Communities should be customizable in order to best meet the needs of each student. VUSD aims to provide holistic support to students in order for them to be successful in the environment that works best for their families. VUSD does not see this SLC model as a short-term solution, but a permanent addition to their comprehensive high school portfolio – we couldn’t agree more! 

VUSD is leading the way for public education that quickly adapts to student needs despite constantly changing circumstances. Their innovative approach to SLC development will be a critical fixture of education for years to come.  

VUSD has partnered with Beyond Textbooks and the Vail Chamber Connection Center to make their SLC possible. 

We continue to be delighted by the innovative and creative spirit of Arizona’s education leaders. Families in Arizona have access to some of the best options and opportunities which are especially needed during these challenging times. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Ducey and A for Arizona to promote these unique and exciting educational opportunities. 

Live in the Vail or Tucson area? Think this program might be a fit for your child? Check it out! Interested in launching an SLC at your local school? Apply and inquire here

Stay tuned for our next school – Arizona Autism Charter School!