Instructor Dan Alm, left, watches Sasha Richards do a page of math problems as they work at his desk in the new Payson Center for Success building, Thursday, Jan. 14.
The Payson Center for Success’ move to the old district office has tripled its size, and the school’s leadership team is busy plotting how they’re going to make the new school their own.
For now, a dragon mural is planned in honor of the school’s mascot, and also a tree, to symbolize the new beginning. Perhaps a plum tree.
“We wanted something very colorful,” said student Tasha Rivas.
PCS moved from its old location on McLane Road to the old district office on Wade Lane earlier this month, following the district office’s move to the Rock Building at Julia Randall Elementary School.
The bigger size contributes to the school’s method of individualized instruction, with more classroom space for small group exercises. The larger space also means that the seven or so students on the waiting list will now have the opportunity to enroll at PCS, Payson’s alternative high school.
Roughly 58 students are currently enrolled due to past space limitations. The school’s charter allows it to enroll 70.
“This will allow us to start with more kids in the fall and we’re excited,” said Principal Kathe Ketchem.
Alternative high schools like PCS allow students who don’t thrive in a traditional classroom atmosphere to successfully complete high school.
Some kids have behavior or attendance issues, several are teen parents, others may not be good auditory learners.
At PCS, individualized instruction allows students to move at their own pace. Ketchem says she treats her students like adults, with consequences following decisions.
“Not punishments,” she says. Bad consequences follow bad decisions, and vice versa.
Students punch in and out with time cards, volunteer, and have work-study programs at the career-based school.
A leadership committee, made of 12 to 14 students, contributes its input on issues such as how to personalize the school.
Each month, teachers nominate a student to join the committee based on academic performance.
“They actually take what we have to say into consideration,” said student R.J. Morris.
The new school also features 20 new computers, purchased with a combination of stimulus funds and other federal money. Ten of those computers are laptops, meaning that students without home Internet access can check them out.
The old PCS essentially had one large instructional room with several smaller side rooms.
One small room at the old school used for group instruction was crammed with six or eight students. At the old school, “you turned around and you elbowed someone in the eye,” said student Audrey Schmitt. “This one, you don’t.”
The larger space also allows for fewer distractions, said student Scott Armstrong.
“We’re not so tempted to talk,” said Morris.
Kendra Huston agreed. “I have to walk across the room to talk to someone.”
Now, one large computer lab, in the old boardroom, opens into another instructional room with tables and chairs. Down the hallway, the laptops sit in a room with a smart board, to make a small group instruction room. Teachers also now have a space with a sink and refrigerator.
All that new space required furnishing, and Cari Day and Dan Dillion of the Beautification Committee donated $1,000 to PCS for furniture. Ketchem said she found great deals at the Arizona State University surplus store, buying chairs, desks and tables.
Ketchem’s family donated a lot of furniture, including a refrigerator, and Joni de Szendeffy, who works for the district, donated 12-foot bookshelves that her husband had custom crafted for someone who changed his mind.
Now, the only thing left to do is paint that dragon.