TAHOE CITY, Calif. - Before North Tahoe High School's Ski Academy program was established, top skiers had to choose between a rigorous public education and competing in high-level competitions. Due to strict attendance rules based on government funding for attendance, some students were forced to leave the district for private schools or home schooling options if they wanted to pursue their skiing careers.
But North Tahoe High School (NTHS) listened to parents' concerns and in 2007 the Ski Academy started as the result of a collaborative effort between the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, parents, teachers, community members and ski organizations.
The NTHS Ski Academy offers competitive skiers the opportunity, through flexible scheduling and specialized support, to train and compete at a high level while benefiting from all the attributes of a comprehensive high school. It offers WASC accreditation and a variety of classes, including multiple college prep, Advanced Placement and A-G-approved offerings, along with expert teachers, thorough college and career counseling, diverse social interactions and extracurricular opportunities including clubs, athletics, and participation in student leadership.
"The academy's goal is to give students the ability to continue to compete at an elite level in the sport they love, while still receiving a college prep education and experiencing their irreplaceable high school years," said parent liaison Johanna Monforte. "It's the best of everything our community has to offer."
Like competing nationally, attending the Academy takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation. NTHS principal Joanna Mitchell said that enrollment in the Ski Academy is a supported decision, starting with the family meeting with counselors to develop an academic plan for the student.
Currently there are 18 students in the Ski Academy, up from 11 when the program first started.
"The faculty has been great," Mitchell said. "Since this program started the teachers continue to develop an understanding of what these kids need. Their flexibility and support is awesome - they are very encouraging of the students to be successful, both in school and in competition."
Students in the Ski Academy compete at various levels - from racing in the Far West programs, Junior Olympics, Nationals, Junior Worlds and even World Cup competitions in their respective disciplines.
In the program, students can arrange to have up to three of six class periods a day unscheduled. These unscheduled periods can be at any time throughout the day in order to support the student's training needs. Some NTHS students train in the morning and come to school late, while others leave at lunch to train in the afternoon.
Students can then schedule other classes through Coldstream Alternative High School, Sierra College or other IS/online programs. Students are required to maintain a minimum 2.8 GPA to participate in the program. Ski Academy students are consistently ranked highly amongst their peers and are consistently represented amongst the valedictorians each year.
Two seniors in the program, Nico Monforte and Jessica Tidd, are NTHS co-valedictorians this year.
"Ski Academy is a great option for students competing at national levels," Tidd said. "It gives us the flexibility to miss school for races, travel and training, but we are still able to be involved in and enjoy the activities and sports public school has to offer."
Though the Ski Academy program was originally designed for and targets competitive skiers, other students are welcome to use it to support their other athletic or artistic endeavors. NTHS has served alpine, freestyle, big mountain and Nordic skiers, as well as snowboarders through the program.
Similar flexibility is also now available through North Tahoe Middle School.