Posted On: 2016-08-12 11:47 AM
By DAVID LOUIS Today's News-Herald
Nestled behind Stonebridge Christian Fellowship is the non-descript campus of one of Lake Havasu's few remaining charter schools.
Although it's a bit hard to find, Sequoia Choice-Havasu offers area residents an opportunity to place their children in a structured on-campus 7-12 grade learning environment, as well as offering an online distance learning option.
In the charter school business for 20 years, Patty Hauchrog, Sequoia director and one of two full-time academic advisors said the first day of school Monday was predictably busy, but had a positive feeling.
"Everyone was upbeat," Hauchrog said. "To make it easier, we broke into teams and the kids had to get to know each other that way. We've got a lot of new faces this year, which is a good thing. Some-times you need that infusion of new blood."
Even though the student body currently stands at 25, Hauchrog anticipates it will soon grow to approximately 50 students. Instruction is still split between two teachers and a part-time employee, keeping class size is low.
"We are always a slow starter. It's like a long distance game," Hauchrog "I guess that's fitting because we also offer long distance instruction."
Parent company, Mesa-based Sequoia Choice - Arizona Distance Learning is a tuition-free Arizona public charter school and Educational Agency of Edkey, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation. Sequoia is also one of the original schools authorized and funded by the Arizona Department of Education to provide distance learning services to Arizona students in grades K-12.
Because Sequoia Choice operates a number of statewide programs and partnerships including 18 brick and mortar campuses, students and families can choose the right options and educational atmosphere to create a personalized education that seeks to meet each student's academic needs and "unique" style of learning.
Sequoia took over management of its Lake Havasu City campus in 2011.
"We do common core," Hauchrog said. "This is something we have to do, but sometimes we get to leave the bounties as long as the end result is that students score well on their (assessment) tests."
For Hauchrog the proof is in the pudding. Throughout its network Sequoia Choice turned in the high-est SAT scores last year for online distance learning in Arizona and ranked 22 in 2013 based on a statewide snapshot comparing all Arizona high schools. In the past several years Sequoia noticed similar academic numbers.
Although Sequoia Choice-Havasu offers online instruction many parents opt for the more traditional approach. But, whether it's online or classroom there are many factors why parents choose a charter school environment, Hauchrog said.
"Large class size at other schools is one reason parents choose charter schools. It can also be about the high school thing and the drama that comes with all of that," she added.
"Sometimes it's because of a health reason and sometimes its anxiety. So many kids suffer from anxiety now. Twenty years ago I would have never heard about kids suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But that happens now as well."
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of American Academy Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the prevalence of trauma exposure among youth is a major public health concern, with a third of adolescents nationally reporting that they have been in a physical fight in the past 12 months and 9 per-cent having been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
Studies have documented the broad range of negative sequelae of trauma exposure for youth, including PTSD, other anxiety problems, depressive symptoms, and dissociation.
In addition, decreased IQ and reading ability, lower grade-point average, more days of school absence, and decreased rates of high school graduation have been associated with exposure to traumatic events.
Evidence also suggests that youth exposed to trauma have decreased social competence and in-creased rates of peer rejection.
Along with its emphasis on standardized student development and reducing the level of anxiety, a brief peek inside the two-room school at 2700 Jamaica Blvd. will tell you it's not your grandmother's classroom. The unadorned rooms bristle with computers and monitors, sporting comprehensive educational software.
"Technology is the future," Hauchrog said.
"In fact, the jobs kids in kindergarten and first grade will have when they grow up do not now exist. How can you train kids to do things that have not been invented yet? Everything moves so fast. Kids really need to have access to technology,
"But, technology can be a hindrance, because it makes the kids not want to problem solve. If it's a math problem they put it in the computer and let that solve it. Doing it this way is not going to help them in their future."
Still, many educators agree the internet has opened a world of knowledge previously unknown to all who use it wisely, the veteran educator said.