Panther Learning Center opens


Mya Studyvin

The Panther Learning Center is in its second day of operation and firing on all cylinders. 

“Yesterday, we were just excited we got (students) here and they found the Learning Center,” director Luan Sparks said. “Right now, we’re working on getting those referrals in for the actual student advisement in whatever way we can help.” 

The newest addition to Derby High School – which was originally approved in the $114 million bond issue in 2018 – consists of multiple classrooms, a laboratory, personal study rooms and offices housing the Mental Health Association and WSU Technical College. 

The building also doubles as a storm shelter for DHS. 

“The district and community had a strategic plan – through that planning process, the community, parents and teachers have asked for an alternative program,” Sparks said. “The high school is also in need of a storm shelter, so they were able to pass the bond for the storm shelter and that became a place for us to house and support our students.”

The alternative learning department houses the virtual courses offered at DHS such as Acellus and Fuel Ed as well as classes in the health science pathway through WSU Tech. The pathway includes Certified Nursing Assistant, home health aide positions, phlebotomy, which is new, and medical terminology. 

“The Panther Learning Center is a non-traditional educational program,” Sparks said. “This isn’t a place for dumping suspended students or students that are deemed maybe ‘less-than.’ I don’t like to call it ‘alternate,’ it’s just non-traditional.”

A derivative of the alternative learning department is the Panther Learning Center Program – this is a program for at-risk students in need of individualized support. Designed to help with credit recovery, course acceleration, disengaged students and transitional needs, this program provides extra support to students that need it.

“The Panther Learning Center Program is intensive advisement, so we’re working on getting students that extra structure and support,” Sparks said. “It’s not just that you’re out here, but it’s a program for all of Derby High School, so that’s pretty cool.”

On-site, community-based support combined with comprehensive individualized plans will serve as a resource for motivated and struggling students alike.

“We’re hoping for extended and summer hours as well, so if students are motivated and want to recover or accelerate credits then this is the place,” Sparks said.


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