Our child has been at Sky Islands for only half a year, so we can't speak from ample experience, but based on what we've seen so far, and on what we've seen at other high schools, we can say Sky Islands is a great school.
The teachers and staff are well-qualified and very committed. They are close to the students, and the teachers coordinate the content and workload so that the students get a holistic, challenging education that never becomes too stressful. In fact, my child's favorite class is also his hardest.
The format is also great. Of course, being a small school with small classes helps a lot -- no one can "sit in the back of the classroom" -- but we also like the block format. Three classes on Monday and Thursday, and the other three classes on Tuesday and Friday. Each class is 90 min with a 15 min break in between. This is much better for learning than literally running through the same seven-period schedule every day. On Wednesdays they attend a mixed-grade community-building class that does all kinds of things. And students can stay after school for half hour on any day to use school resources or meet with teachers.
Sky Islands isn't for everyone, but for many/most kids it's much better than the typical public high school, and for some kids it's much, much better. The contrast with most public high schools is amazing. You really need to visit another high school, then visit Sky Islands to know what I mean.
My son is now in his second and final year at this school as a senior. The one thing that stands out right away with this curriculum is that they don't just stick to the standard requirements, but go far beyond those. Life skills come to mind immediately. This is one of the strengths of this school. Real life issues, styles and knowledge. Not only do students get the required education, but also actual experience that can be documented on a resume for their future. Practical knowledge and such experience is priceless for any young person's future. This school delivers!
The school's director has developed a very unique learning situation with this school. Her many years of experience in the field of having experienced the bad, the good and ugly have now been molded to bring out the best in students and staff. Her entire model of not only teaching the basic requirements, but real life has proven over and over again to a very powerful and successful model. I fully support the concept in all respects as I have seen the best results in my own son.
When teachers respect the students, the inverse happens. These students all have a mutual respect not only towards each other, but also towards the staff. This is a key component to success. These teachers, or actually the entire staff put major emphasis on this simple concept.
In many cases the students have enough time to get all the work done during the school hours due to the way the class schedule is designed. As this school has many diverse programs, it makes sense to not drive the students crazy with overload as many schools do. From my observations while watching my son, I see that basically he is always in school mode. We could be doing anything and at one point he will make reference to something they learned in school. This is absolutely brilliant!
I have seen it in my son. He actually cares about the school, its surroundings and fellow class mates. Just this morning he told me that he would be late for pickup as he will be helping other students with some after school projects. (His words, not mine)
First off, they allow students to become adults and don't "baby" them. The entire attitude drives to create a responsible community. I experienced a far more mature group of students in this school than ever before. The camaraderie amongst the students helps develop a sincere understanding of today's society IMHO. The last time I visited this school, I was actually greeted by students in a most friendly and adult like manner and most of all respect. This is not what one typically finds at high schools.
This school is excellent. Before attending this school I attended a large high school where the instructors had failed to become involved with the students and overall would fail to provide sufficient education to the students. Here, because of the small student population, student center learning is not only encouraged but practiced each and everyday. Here education isn't just something that is acquired at an institution for learning but rather a bond and trust between the student and instructor, a relationship where outstanding education and mentorship is a promise.