The hybrid school academy is expanding | Daily Inter Lake

A school academy that includes online learning combined with in-person outdoor educational experiences expands its reach.

Montana Hybrid Academy plans to begin serving children ages 10 and up through the high school level beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

The school opened in January 2021 and has since added locations in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

“We just saw the community we’ve built through the middle school program and it’s an amazing community of students who support each other. We wanted to expand that into the high school space while allowing them to undertake different projects that interest them,” said academy director and founder Paz Chentnik.

Academically, core high school courses will include courses in language arts, history, math, science, Spanish, and computer science, with the latter covering contemporary topics such as cryptocurrency. . Grading is skill-based.

High school students will be matched with a counselor to review programs that may be helpful to them in achieving their post-secondary goals, such as work-study and dual enrollment in Flathead Valley Community College’s Running Start program, take an apprenticeship or start a business.

Overall, Chentnik said the hybrid model lends itself to flexibility in scheduling and location. Homework is completed during the school day and there is no homework in efforts to encourage students to spend time with family and friends, help with household chores, attend extracurricular activities, or pursue hobbies.

These are all the reasons mother Allison Rennie, from Kalispell, thought the academy would be a good choice for two of her four children who enrolled when it opened. They will continue to attend in the fall at the middle and high school level.

“For my daughter, it will be high school, the schedule allows her to have time to run her business [Grace Ranch] and work with his animals,” she said.

Through mentorship, Rennie said his daughter is looking forward to continuing to grow and grow the business.

Rennie has experience with a variety of education formats – public, private and homeschooling where she was a teacher and was part of a local homeschooling co-op. His eldest did a mix of private and public schools. The second oldest was home-schooled through high school and will be a senior at Glacier High School in the fall.

Besides being an outdoor family who loves to travel, the Rennies were drawn to the student-focused approach.

“Paz is so good at getting student feedback and constantly tweaking things, which I really love as a parent and my kids love that because they have a voice in their education,” Rennie said.

“We always think they learn best when they learn what they want,” she later added. “That has been our home schooling philosophy.”

What Rennie didn’t foresee was how the community could be built through an online program with students and staff from different states and countries.

“I think probably the most surprising part was how it was built to become a community. I was skeptical for several days of their online presence, but they developed great friendships inside and outside the state and the country,” she said. “It’s great to expand their world outside of the Valley.”

OUTDOOR EDUCATION is just as important as the online component.

“Our middle school and high school operate on a one-room classroom model and focus on experiential learning, essentially learning by doing and experiencing versus a traditional lecture style,” said Chentnik.

In addition to extending to secondary education, bush days are open to non-university students as space permits.

“We want to make this an opportunity for all the kids in the valley,” Chentnik said, adding that there is no shortage of knowledgeable people in the valley who are passionate about the outdoors and want to pass on their skills and traditions.

Chentnik said she decided to open it to the public because of the benefits she saw in students building their confidence as they learned new outdoor skills.

In the last school year, students learned how to make fishing lures and gillnets, then went fishing. Another day was spent learning how to build a drop spindle and then weaving the wool into yarn before using a spinning wheel.

“What’s really important to us with this new generation is knowing that they can actually support themselves and don’t have to feel trapped in the sense that they can only order what Amazon can. deliver or what’s available in store,” Chentnik said.

“They are very proud of their creations,” she said.

Chentnik said the students were also active in the community as they worked with Lone Pine State Park rangers and AmeriCorps to clear trails and restore picnic tables.

Chentnik said the goal of bush days is to combine learning with fun and games.

“We have specific outcomes that we want students to grasp where students are learning something but still incorporate games and we want students to leave each class with some project,” she said.

For bushcraft days, the academy operates a badge system where students can earn badges to demonstrate the skills they have learned in school.

ACADEMY REGISTRATION is limited to 36 students for the 2022-23 school year. For the bushcraft days, there will be approximately 18 places available for non-university students aged 10-17.

Chentnik opened the school in January 2021 in response to how traditional schools and families were struggling to adapt to the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, which meant negotiating online learning at full-time during lockdowns and quarantines, with parents often stepping in as co-teachers.

Chentnik holds a degree in International Studies and is TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification with experience in virtual and global schools after spending several years living abroad with her family.

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Reporter Hilary Matheson can be reached at 406-758-4431 or


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