The Gold Program at Payson High School combines teacher guidance with online courses to help students short of credits catch up and possibly graduate on time.
Apparent pent-up demand caused the program to begin informally shortly after fall break instead of January, when the official opening is planned. Twenty students are currently enrolled.
“They just needed it,” said teacher Gail Hodge.
In August, the Payson School Board approved an agreement with Mesa Unified School District, which now provides online classes to Payson students. The agreement opened the way for the Gold Program.
Credit-deficient students sign up for the program as they would another class. “Sometimes seniors are very locked in by their schedules,” Hodge said.
Online offerings ease scheduling clashes since a student who can get into the Gold Program during an open period can finish the needed class.
Hodge meets with the students occasionally to track progress.
“Right now we’re targeting seniors who are credit deficient,” said Principal Roy Sandoval. The exact number of such students is constantly changing and Sandoval said he couldn’t offer a number.
Although priority will always be given first to seniors, and then to juniors needing credits, the course could, in the future, serve students seeking opportunities otherwise not available in Payson — a Mandarin class, for instance.
Hodge’s ultimate vision includes night classes, and she would love to have another full-time teacher and an aide, although that plan may, for now, be an economic impossibility.
“There is only one of me,” Hodge said. “If most of the kids need me during the day, that’s where I’ll be.”
Full capacity is 18 students in each period.
“Online education is not for everybody,” said guidance counselor Don Heizer. Guidance counselors like Heizer are charged with assessing a student’s penchant for working quietly alone and their abilities to meet other expectations.
Mesa, for instance, does not run on the same calendar as Payson, and students enrolled in Mesa’s classes are expected to adhere to Mesa’s schedule. “They have to know that up front,” Hodge said.
Students must complete a computer aptitude test, which includes searching for a particular file, attaching it to an e-mail, and then sending it to Hodge.
“It is not an alternative to suspension and it is not a containment center for incorrigible (students),” Sandoval said. “This is for kids who, for whatever reason, have not passed classes or have credits to make up.”
After completing the course, students must take a Payson final exam. “We know that when we put our stamp on it, we’re going to guarantee the public a certain degree of rigor,” Sandoval said.
“It’s giving them every possible avenue,” Hodge said.