FLINT, Michigan — Local charter school WAY Academy of Flint
is making innovative strides in education by offering a blended learning environment where all students experience both online and in-person learning throughout the week. The tuition-free school is managed by a network of public charter schools across the nation.
"Our program is for students who find traditional school to be an overwhelming and unhappy place," said Shelly Smith, Director of Programs of WAY Academy Flint. "Our students find success in the small, casual environment with staff who know them as individuals. We are accepting of all types of students and practice project-based learning."
WAY, which stands for Widening Advancements for Youth, is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2009 by Beth Baker and Glen Taylor. The school is authorized by Lake Superior State University and functions in compliance with state learning requirements.
With the intention of bringing innovation and flexibility to how students learn, WAY aims to provide a personalized learning experience for all students. WAY students are able to experience an inclusive school model that takes both their identity and social circumstances into account.
Shelly Smith, Director of Programs of WAY Academy Flint.
"We have our student body split into two groups: the morning and the afternoon group," said Smith. "Most of our students attend in-person classes four days a week and then spend about four hours a week from home working on assignments. Some students use their off time to work one-on-one with tutors while many students have jobs."
Despite a student’s circumstance, WAY Academy believes every young person is capable of being a hero. This vision is what leads their blended learning model and allows them to provide a sense of community within the walls of their school.
According to Smith, parents and family members have expressed great appreciation for the school’s unique schedule. The flexibility has created a space to focus on students' mental health; a growing concern across the country.
"For many of our students, attending all day is a real hardship for their mental health. I find that the students are more likely to make the effort to attend school when they know that they only have to be in the building for half a day. Parents have expressed appreciation for their child's attitude regarding attending in-person classes," said Smith.
In 2013, WAY Academy of Flint opened its doors to serve a diverse population of learners who preferred more flexibility in their learning. This allowed for student-centered learning and further connection between educators and families.
WAY Academy's online learning portal.
Smith emphasized the effectiveness of project-based learning, a teaching approach that encourages students to use their personal experiences to build knowledge and academic skills through relevant projects designed to replicate real-world challenges.
When asked how students and staff remain motivated throughout the school year with a blended learning model, Smith shared that the school continues to thrive because they prioritize building genuine relationships with students.
"Each staff member has a mentor group that they spend extra time with each week to make sure they are on track in their academics," said Smith. "We give out prizes for good behavior and strong attendance. We eat lunch with the students and take an interest in their lives outside of school."
To learn more about WAY Academy of Flint visit: wayacademyflint.net
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