My experience with Polaris has been nothing but positive and I can't say enough positive things about the staff and students there. Students seem, for the most part, to be enthusiastic learners and teachers consistently strive to challenge students by helping them learn how to think rather than what to think. Also note that their composite ACT scores have improved markedly over the 9 years that they've been around from 17.7 to 22.5.
This year I am a freshmen at Polaris. Though this is my first year (I recently switched over from a much more traditional school), I know I have certainly found my place. It's incredibly close-knit which I think is a benefit of the small size. I enjoy learning by doing and discussion rather than lectures and textbooks. I have found that Polaris is definitely the best place for experiential learning. It's also an amazingly open-minded place. You can be yourself and nobody could care less if you have piercings and purple hair or are gay or button your shirts to the top and go to church every day. Teachers are always there for you, always there to help you one-on-one with schoolwork or even personal problems. It is very laid back and students have a lot of freedom. I'm sure lots of people might disagree with this and think that "hey, these kids are much too young to have that much choice" but the truth is that you won't be prepared for college or the so called "real world" unless you learn how not to abuse freedom. The school is fairly casual and puts very little stress on standardized testing and homework. It provides lots of opportunities to find yourself. I love this school.
If you were to go to CDE's webpage and look at each school's "report card" (School Performance Framework), you'll notice that Polaris in 2014 became the highest ranked school out of all the public schools within the district. This is a testament to the staff. They don't filter kids into AP/remedial courses, they have about 20 fewer days in class to get these results due to their Intensive Weeks and Fieldwork days, they don't inundate my child with homework, and they only use textbooks in math and foreign language. Kids to digital portfolios and preset them to panels at the end of 8th, 10th, and 12th grade. True 21st century learning in my eyes.
As a several-year student of Polaris, I believe it is a school which provides incredible opportunities for students. Coming from another, more traditional high school in Fort Collins, I found my voice was not heard and I was more of a statistic than a member of the community. At Polaris, all the wonderful teachers are supportive and push you as you need. I feel at Polaris, students must foster their own motivation however, because of the system. Although we do not have an AP, or IB program, the classes are engaging and I have learned much more than my time at other schools. With the hands-on, small classroom community, we can have discussions and learn how to critically think. With any criticism towards this school, I would say that the individual may not have flourished because of their lack of effort. The best way to have a rewarding learning experience here is to value your own education, which I have found easy here.
Polaris is a weak school. While some of the teachers are kind, dedicated, and hardworking, other teachers and support staff are disorganized, petty, lacking in professional knowledge and compassion to the point of being mean and in a few cases, actually harassing students. The principal contributes to this dysfunctional behavior by enabling these teachers through selectively addressing parental concerns and ignoring others, being arrogant, patronizing, manipulative, and unfortunately, even dishonest. Furthermore, the school does not fully embrace the expeditionary learning model with either character development or teaching practices on a daily basis. Expeditionary learning is rarely evident outside of the three, week-long intensives each year. The school is definitely something that students and parents should think twice about.
This school cultivates a culture of mediocrity, starting with the principal and going down through the ranks all the way to the students. The student population they attract are largely those who are unable to be successful in a "traditional" school atmosphere. Many people send their children there because they think Polaris provides more opportunities for individual attention, flexibility, and creativity. However, they in reality seem to cater to and encourage not much more than an anti-establishment mentality that in fact stunts the development of a good number of their students who otherwise have potential. Overall, there is an anti-intellectual culture -- among both staff and parents -- that is resentful of students who strive to achieve academically. Parents who take an active interest in their child's education are treated with suspicion and even disdain. In sum, this school is a great fit for students who do not have especially high academic aspirations, but anyone who is academically motivated should steer clear.
This is an incredible school! Motivated, kind teachers and staff- individual attention, understanding of each child's potential. This is not a school for slackers- learning skills for the 21st century- hands on - I highly suggest you take a tour of the school, meet the principal and teachers. All are the most highly comitted people I have ever met. Kids are active, group oriented, and very interesting people! We love this school.