Summit Academy’s future in question |

Summit Academy’s future in question

FRISCO – Financial problems plaguing Summit Academy threaten to leave some of Summit County’s most talented young athletes out in the cold.The alternative school may close its doors after its first-ever semester, as it stands with empty pockets and staring at a growing stack of bills. Fifteen-year-old Matt Yetzer of Breckenridge enrolled in June, and is one of America’s top teen freestyle skiers. He placed 16th in the nation at last year’s Junior Olympics in Idaho, and has dreams of being a professional skier and a major force in events like the X Games and the Gravity Games.He and 15 other local students comprised the academy’s inaugural student body, studying from a curriculum devised by the University of Nebraska. Seven of the students are competitive skiers and snowboarders; others came to the school for more individualized instruction. But now, only seven months later, Yetzer doesn’t know how much longer he’ll walk through the doors at Summit Learning Center, the nonprofit which houses the academy. The school is in serious financial jeopardy.Bob and Cindy Ebert, whose daughter is enrolled at Summit Academy, took a look at the books and determined the school has almost $28,000 in bills to pay ($11,400 of which is already past due) just to make it through the first semester’s end in mid-January. Only $3,100 in income from first-semester tuition remains uncollected. “… There is a possibility, if after the holiday we don’t have additional revenues coming in, the Summit Academy would close,” said Summit Learning Center director and academy founder Kelly Stern.To finish out the 2004-2005 school year, the school needs to come up with an additional $40,000. Stern charges $5,000 per student in annual tuition, paid on a roughly quarterly basis.”This is the first year, and first years are more expensive. I budgeted for 20 students and ended up with 16, and we haven’t fundraised as well as I had budgeted,” Stern said.Stern had hoped to raise $10,000 from a community spelling bee last month, but only ended up with $2,000. She said she hasn’t had the time to pursue grant funding for the school.Now Stern and a group of parents are scrambling to raise the money necessary to keep the school afloat.Parents will sit down tonight at 6:30 to brainstorm funding sources, including their own pockets.”The cry right now is, we need donations, or we’re not going to have a school,” said Matt’s mother, Amanda Smith Yetzer. “Matt’s not going to be able to ride, and that was the whole intent of the program.”Last year, as a Summit High School freshman, Matt’s athletic aspirations – and a rigorous training and competition schedule – caused him to miss about 60 days of classes, frequently landing him in administrators’ offices for tense meetings with school staff.”It was really hard,” Matt said. “I failed two classes and had to drop out of one.”Matt became discouraged with his studies, rarely cracking open a book outside of the school’s walls, even when he wasn’t away at competitions.Matt thought he had found a way out of his gloomy situation last spring, when he heard about Summit Academy – a year-round private school with an academic calendar tailored to the schedules of winter athletes.The school year begins in early summer, enabling students to take off in February and March. “I’m learning a lot more, for sure. It’s more of a one-on-one learning environment, and the teachers really cater to our needs,” Matt said.Matt’s largest class has four students, and he’s free to work his academic time around photo shoots and training sessions on the slopes.If Summit Academy does fold, Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner said the district “will definitely do everything we can to get these kids back in our system.””With the high school kids, that will involve meeting with the counselors, looking at their credits and trying to find the best timing to get them back in the system,” Hamner said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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