Online GOAL school opens in GJ; home base in Mesa Mall

A school based at the mall isn’t for everyone. Then again, GOAL Academy teacher Ron Harrison said, a brick-and-mortar school isn’t for everyone, either.

GOAL (Guided Online Academic Learning) Academy opened two weeks ago in the food court wing of Mesa Mall. Students of the academy, who range in age from 14 to 20 and grades eight through 12, take classes online through the academy and check in at the mall location at least once every other week to speak with teachers, receive tutoring and get information on any social services they may need.

“I think our target audience is kids who struggle in the regular classroom and with the September-through-May model,” Harrison said.

Some of the 17 Western Slope students who have signed up at GOAL’s Grand Junction location chose the school because they have a busy work schedule or a baby on the way, Harrison said. Other GOAL students have chosen the online route for reasons varying from the time constraints of a professional hockey career to a desire to finish school at a younger age, according to Paul Valdez, GOAL director in Grand Junction.

“It’s not that we just attract the students that are failing,” Valdez said.

GOAL Academy began three years ago in Pueblo and now has locations in Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, Greeley, Denver, Longmont and Aurora. All but two of those offices are located in a shopping mall.

The academy has thousands of students statewide. The school operates year-round, although Harrison said academy teachers advise students to try taking classes on the traditional schedule.

The Grand Junction GOAL chapter has one teacher and will add a second teacher if enrollment exceeds 25 students. Students can enroll at the Mesa Mall location through the end of September, but some students may be accepted after that if other students leave the program, Valdez said.

Valdez said the goal of GOAL is to give students a different way to learn, not poach students that are succeeding in District 51 schools. “We’re here to help the community,” he said. “We’re not here to compete with the local school district.”

GOAL is a free public school and receives funding from the state based on how many students it has, just like a traditional public school. Students receive a high school diploma accredited by the state with GOAL’s name on it.


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