Compass Academy Coming to D303 Next Fall


Kam Kelly, News Editor

Starting this fall in the 2021-2022 school year, D303’s newest high school Compass Academy will open in the old Haines building. 

Compass Academy offers a change from the traditional high school setup.

 It will provide the opportunity to “engage in hands-on project-based learning throughout all the courses,…have voice and choice in their own personalized learning activities, attend school on a schedule that is flexible and built around each student’s individual needs,” said Sharon Stanley, Director of Compass Academy. 

Project-based learning is based on the idea that learning should be centered around individual students and their interests. Instead of a traditional curriculum where everyone in a class learns the same amount of a subject and moves at the same pace, students at Compass Academy will be able to choose how they learn a subject, how their individual learning is paced and how deep into their studies they go. 

“Whether they want to dive deep into content or take additional time to learn a concept,” Stanley said. Students have many opportunities to personalize their education. 

Another central idea of project-based learning is the application of new skills and concepts in “real life.” 

To do this, Compass Academy is partnered with many small businesses and companies in the area to offer internships, as well as outside schooling at the Fox Valley Career Center (FVCC) and Elgin Community College (ECC). 

Because of the academy’s flexibility and its goal to offer students every opportunity possible, it was “intentionally designed to complement the schedules at the comprehensive high schools [North and East] and FVCC,” said Aubree Schuett, Associate Director of Instructional Intervention. 

Students may take all their classes at the Compass Academy campus, split their time between the academy and their comprehensive high school or split their time between the academy and out-of-district institutions. Even within Compass Academy, there is a variety of learning environments. Students may work individually, in groups, with an in-person teacher or with an online tutor. 

Classes at the Compass Academy are often not divided the way they are in traditional high schools. Multiple subjects are combined into interdisciplinary seminars.

For example, in a class centered around Shakespeare, students will learn English skills through reading plays as well as business skills from a student-led project made to market Shakespeare to a modern audience. 

This new approach to education in D303 is meant to teach students traditional subjects in a way that will prepare them for secondary education and future careers. 

“Because students frequently work in teams to create projects, they have many opportunities to develop valuable employability skills such as critical thinking and collaboration,” said Schuett.  Students will also be involved in an advisory. 

An advisory is “a daily meeting between an advisor and a small group of students where students engage in activities that develop their personal success skills,” Schuett said. 

The educational standards are the same at both Compass Academy and the traditional high schools, although success is measured differently. 

Instead of standardized tests and letter grades, students at Compass Academy will “develop a digital learning profile that highlights examples of their learning… they will receive a transcript that highlights student learning by competency area,” Stanley said. 

Besides providing a personalized education, Compass Academy is also centered around equity. 

“The Academy welcomes all District 303 students entering grades 9 through 12… and offers special education and English language support,” Stanley said. 

Students interested in attending Compass Academy this fall should complete this Google form so that Sharon Stanley can contact them.