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Spectrum Academy Charter School breaks ground on Utah County campus

PLEASANT GROVE — Spectrum Academy, a charter school specializing in educating children with autism, held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for a new campus to be built in Utah County.

The school's North Salt Lake campus, now in it's eighth year, has been in high demand among families across the state, with more than 400 students currently on the waiting list for admission.

Brad Nelson, Spectrum Academy's director of finance and development, hopes the new Pleasant Grove campus will help satisfy a significant need for Utah families.

"Utah has the highest prevalence rate of autism in the nation," Nelson said at the ceremony. "One out of 47 boys is diagnosed with autism in the state of Utah. There are a lot of families, especially in Utah County, that need these types of education services. We wanted the new campus to be as centralized as possible."

The programs at both Spectrum Academy campuses will be essentially the same, he said, though the new facility will not be identical to the one in North Salt Lake.

According to Nelson, about 300 students have already signed up to attend the new campus, 751 W. 700 South, which is scheduled to be open for its first day of school Aug. 19. The new campus will accept 430 students entering kindergarten through eighth grade in its first academic year. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.

The school plans to add a grade to its curriculum each successive year, eventually including ninth- through 12th-grade students, according to Jana Gold of Spectrum Academy's board of directors.

"There have been hundreds and hundreds of kids on our waiting list that can't get in," Gold said. "So we're very excited about this."

Gold's son, Jace, who has autism, is in his junior year at the school's North Salt Lake campus. Jace, 16, said he enjoys studying digital media and Web design.

"I love everything about it," he said. "The school's administration has taken me under its wing, and I feel like I'm part of the administration now. I'm one of the main people in charge of getting the website going" for the Utah County campus.

Gold said she's been pleased with her son's involvement at Spectrum Academy.

"He gets hands-on experience that he didn't get in traditional schools," she said. "He has really flourished."