St. Vrain Valley's APEX homeschool program looking for new home

Originally published on the Times-Call website >>

The St. Vrain Valley School District's enrichment program for homeschoolers, APEX, is looking for its own home for the next school year after five years of renting space in churches.

The part-time program, which enrolls about 800 students, operated out of churches in three locations last school year in Longmont, Frederick and Niwot.

But the Longmont church couldn't offer space this school year because of renovation work, while the Frederick church will need the space for its own programs for the next school year.

Between the loss of church space and the program's steady growth, district officials said, it's time to find a new space. The district is looking to rent a building in Longmont that can be dedicated to the school.

"We want to bring it all under one roof," said Kim Lancaster, APEX program director. "We're excited to design a space geared for our students."

St. Vrain Valley took over managing the homeschool enrichment program in 2012 from Aurora Public Schools, which had administered the Options homeschool program in St. Vrain Valley.

St. Vrain Valley's APEX program, generating about $2.8 million a year through per-pupil money from the state, is self-supporting and even brings in some revenue to the district, officials said.

The neighboring Boulder Valley School District also took over Aurora's Options program in its district, renaming the program Boulder Explore.

Boulder Explore is on hiatus this school yearwhile a committee works on a new vision. The K-8, part-time program was down to about 15 students and a dozen families at the end of last school year.

In St. Vrain Valley, APEX seems to have found a program that appeals to the area's homeschool families.

Students attend six hours of classes, one day a week. Class options include a mix of enrichment classes, such as robotics and all about cooking, and traditional classes, such as earth science and algebra.

While APEX provides a recommended course sequence, there's no requirement for students to take specific classes. Instead, parents can pick and choose based on student needs.

Some of the most popular classes include those that work better with a large group of students, such as musical theater, P.E. and choir, and higher-level math and science classes that parents may not have the expertise to teach.

APEX high school students, just as the district's regular full-time students, have the option to take free concurrent enrollment classes at Front Range Community College. The program also offers some of the "fun" of public high school, including dances, student council and talent shows.

For parents, there's a curriculum library where they can check out materials.

"Our mission is to provide the best of both worlds — of homeschool and public school," Lancaster said. "Here, the parent is the primary educator."

Senior Evan Ellis, who attended Options starting in the third grade and continued with APEX, is taking musical theater, P.E., guitar and computer technology. He's also a teaching assistant in a science class and is taking physics at Front Range.

He said APEX provides more resources for homeschool students, while still allowing a more flexible schedule than public schools.

"I like being able to schedule my life the way I want," he said.

Seventh-grader Caroline Martin said she lives five minutes from the previous Longmont location, so she is looking forward to a new space in Longmont. Still, she said, the drive to Frederick is worth it.

"We get to take a lot of different classes that are harder to do at home, like musical theater," she said. "You get to take classes in a group setting and use equipment like microscopes that we don't have at home."

Senior Anna Ramsey said the flexible schedule of homeschooling makes it easier for her to participate in community theater. Plus, she said, she has social anxiety that's easier to manage as a homeschool student.

"I can work on it one day a week at APEX instead of five days a week at a public school," she said.

Plus, Ramsey said, she likes that she can choose classes and specialize.

"I really love the program and the community," she said.