OUSD-Rock Tree Sky partnership has families lining up to attend Summit School

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web Screen Shot 2020 10 15 at 3.24.01 PM copyAustin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter

Summit School in Upper Ojai got the spotlight at Ojai Unified School District’s Oct. 14 school board meeting.

To view the OUSD and Rock Tree Sky websites, visit: (Message from Summit School Principal Robin Monson: ) 


To hear the school board spotlight presentation on Summit School, visit: from the 1:17 to 2:00 time stamp.

Summit School Principal Robin Monson said: “It’s been so exciting and invigorating to embark on this very invigorating and different program for our district. There’s definitely a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with our partnership with Rock Tree Sky, and we have an amazing teaching staff that is just so responsive and reflective to what parents and families are looking for in Summit School.”

OUSD created a waitlist in August for students wanting to enroll at Summit School due to the popularity of the personalized learning program for children in kindergarten through 12th grade, Today, 113 students are enrolled at Summit School and there are six staff members.

OUSD temporarily closed the then-107-year-old Summit School in 2018 after the Thomas Fire and licensed it to an education enrichment program called Rock Tree Sky that had been operating next door to Summit School.

OUSD later partnered with Rock Tree Sky and pays for Summit students to attend the enrichment program at the school two days a week. 

OUSD Superintendent Tiffany Morse said: “There is a physical space limitation at Summit, even though it’s an independent study school. Those students who attend (Summit School) have the option to attend extension activities at Rock Tree Sky. So, we want to make sure that we are within those boundaries of how many students can fit on the campus at a time, etc. So we may come to you (the board) with some lottery options when we do enrollment for next year.”

Summit offers a wide range of curriculum options in a non-classroom-based program where the students and parents partner with the teacher to develop a learning plan, Monson said.

“For the homeschooling approach, there’s definitely a child-led, very natural investigative option to ... schooling your child at home,” Monson said. “The child-led might be more project-based, exploratory and then the school at home is maybe the traditional model of textbooks or Edgenuity (online curriculum). 

“Grading is the same, where the parent might do most of the grading and give most of the feedback, and anywhere along the spectrum to the teacher giving the majority of the feedback. Our curriculum model, which I think is really the highlight of this program, is that it can be tailor-made for a family’s interest from experiential to paper/pencil to computer-based. 

“Really depending on what the goals are for the child and the parents — and the education that they’re seeking — that all of those different options are available. It’s not an all-or-nothing on any of those. It can be a mix and match of different combinations to really meet their needs.”

Summit students have the option of attending Rock Tree Sky two days a week as space allows.

Morse said: “Rock Tree Sky has a license agreement for the use of the campus. So they have other students who are not attending (Summit School). We actually utilize one room at Summit for students who are in Summit and independent study program meeting with teachers.”

Rock Tree Sky owner Jim Bailey praised the partnership with OUSD. “This provides that opportunity for kids to build real relationships over time in an informal environment,” Bailey said. “So, to me, this is really a dream partnership. I’m hopeful that this partnership continues to be so fruitful for these learners, these families, and successful for the district and the community. I hope it would spread to other small districts, to other districts that have been losing their homeschool families or at least leaving them out of some opportunities.”

Thus far this school year, Rock Tree Sky has been operating 16 hours a week under a waiver from the state as an unlicensed childcare program. The hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Students are in pods of 12 to 14, with just three of these cohort groups on campus at any one time. 

Morse said: “We have not experienced yet what this was intended to look like because as soon as we started the partnership we went into COVID. So we are building something in an unnatural environment, and it will likely morph into something different when we have our normal situation. It’s been interesting to build something in this environment that’s not how we normally would. So we’ve been doing our best to be flexible and to adjust. For those families who are new to Summit, it will look different probably this entire year and probably next year. We’ll continue to adjust until we figure out what Summit really is, and what it feels like and looks like for our families once we’re on campus.”


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