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APEX homeschool program sees steady growth

 

Courtesy Photo Second grader Haven Zenz (left) and third grader Annika Wicht practice scales during their orchestra class at St. Vrain Valley School District’s APEX Homeschool Enrichment Program. Zenz said she applies what she learns from her teacher when she practices at home throughout the week.

“We know you’re guilty.”

Fourth grader Eden Zenz and her classmates accuse Kim Lancaster, director of St. Vrain’s APEX Homeschool Enrichment Program, the moment she walks into their Literature Detectives class in the sanctuary of Vinelife Church in Gunbarrel.

The students are using clues prepared by their teacher to solve a whodunit as part of their unit on the novel Chasing Vermeer. Their list of suspects includes Lancaster and several other APEX staff.

This scene is much like a typical St. Vrain Valley School District classroom, yet APEX is not a typical school. It’s an enrichment program that, as stated on its website, offers homeschool families “the dynamic experience of a public school classroom and the freedom of a homeschool education.”

And with a steady increase in enrollment over the last five years, it’s clear that APEX families feel they are getting the best of both the homeschool and public school worlds.

“We’ve seen 25 to 30 percent growth each year,” said Lancaster, who has watched enrollment surge from 250 to 800 students in five years.

The program pulls about a third of its students from outside the district. Families drive from as far as Black Hawk, Brighton, and even Cheyenne, Wyoming, to attend classes at one of APEX’s three locations in Longmont, Frederick and Boulder (Gunbarrel).

With its own classrooms in use during the week, the district rents space from area churches. “This is a business connection, and a wonderful community partnership,” Lancaster said, stressing that there is “no affiliation whatsoever” between St. Vrain Valley Schools and the churches.

Students enrolled at APEX attend school one day a week and parents select their six-class schedule. “I think that makes it appeal to a lot of families because there are a lot of ways they can use the program,” Lancaster said.

APEX offers many features of a traditional school which are hard to replicate at home, such as theater performances, orchestra concerts, student council, school dances, and National Honor Society.

Eden Zenz and her two sisters have attended APEX since sixth grader Mercy enrolled in kindergarten. Her family attributes the program’s growth to the support they receive from staff. “We’ve got this whole excellent team cheering us on,” Betsy Zenz, the girls’ mother said.

Lancaster attributes the growth at APEX to a growing credibility around the quality of homeschool education, “especially as homeschool kids have grown up and gone to college and been successful in the workplace and even accepted into Ivy League schools.”

She also cites the strong level of trust which has developed as parents have seen the district support the program exactly the way they want it. “I think [APEX has] built credibility as a movement with homeschoolers and within the district as a program.”

Principal Sherri Schumann sees APEX as filling an important niche in the school district’s offerings. “St. Vrain is really supportive of all types of education. They’re open to meeting the needs of all kids.”

For the Zenz family, the difference APEX has made in their homeschool experience is clear. “It’s such a great program,” said Betsy Zenz. “I still feel like I need to pinch myself sometimes.”

For more information on the APEX Homeschool Enrichment Program, visit apexhomeschool.org.

 

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