PRESS RELEASE: World Class Academy MTB
You may remember an article on Pinkbike
a few months back about the launch of a new alternative high school centered around mountain biking. Back in March when the article was published, the World Class Academy MTB pilot program was in full swing. We had traveled to Peru. We were holding daily academics with our three students. We were riding mind-blowing singletrack every afternoon. We had settled into a routine and we were proving that World Class Academy's newest school was indeed going to work. College-prep academics, international travel, top-tier mountain biking - it was everything we were looking to accomplish with the pilot program.
The school was certainly off to an ideal start. It almost seemed too good to be true…
Then, on Sunday, March 15, the Peruvian President, Martín Vizcarra, declared a state of emergency for the country. All businesses - except for grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks - would be closed. All of Peru’s borders and airports would be closed. In two days, it would also be illegal to leave one's house, except if you were heading to one of the three essential businesses and you had “proof” that you needed to visit those establishments. All of this was announced to be in effect for at least two weeks, but most Peruvians suspected it would last much longer. We had all been well aware of the pandemic spreading around the world, but where we were in Peru's Sacred Valley had been untouched by the virus. Peru's cases of the virus as a whole were low at that time. But now, Coronavirus had loudly knocked on our door and woken us up from our blissful dream.
On Monday, March 16, we seized the day and enjoyed what would likely be our last day of riding mountain bikes for quite some time. We went to what had been our favorite trail from the past three weeks- from the top of Lamay, all the way to the valley floor. We breathed in the views, watched the slowly setting sun, and prepared for the ~3500 vertical feet of fun back to the valley floor. No one said a word in the shuttle ride back to the house. The ride was sweet, but left a funny after-taste - given the state of the world, and its unstable future.
Staying busy during Peruvian quarantine with Spikeball
The next day, we finished classes and did not ride our bikes afterwards. While this was obviously a bummer, it was easy to keep a positive perspective on our situation as we watched the death count rise in Italy, China, and all over the world. We continued to focus on academics and luckily had a great deal of space to frolic and play games in after classes were over. Compared to how many Peruvians were stuck in small apartments in clustered cities, our quarantine set-up with our large, open spaces felt quite luxurious.
Then, President Vizcarra extended the quarantine until well past my intended flight back to the United States in May. I signed up for the US Embassy’s repatriation flight waitlist and waited. And then I waited some more. In the meantime, we kept having classes and having fun in the ways that we could. Eventually, my turn came and I was on the very last scheduled US repatriation flight out of Cusco. By April 7th, I was at my home in Wyoming, reflecting on the whirlwind of events and the roller-coaster of a ride that had been the World Class Academy MTB Pilot Program.
While this was certainly not the start I had intended for my long-awaited MTB program, it was still a start. We had students and staff. We had held three weeks of amazing classes and riding. We were receiving daily questions about this new school. Our Instagram page was putting out fresh content every day. We received several applications. And again, it seemed very hard to complain about the state of our small school in the wake of a global pandemic. Our school had its health, our families were safe, and we finished the semester’s classes via distance learning - all things considered, it was easy to say the state of the school was alive and well.
Student Joaquin Lopez whips after class in Peru
The spread and subsequent effects of the pandemic caused World Class Academy to delay our first full semester of the MTB Program from September 2020. World Class Academy’s other three schools (whitewater kayaking, climbing, and kiteboarding) had enough returning students and faculty to confidently start the school year this past September - with some major adjustments for COVID protocols. Starting a new school in these times just did not feel right.
This was not an easy or straightforward decision. Each school was scrutinized separately and individual decisions were made for all four of the academies. In the words of the principal of World Class Academy: World Class Academy MTB is far from over. In fact, we are only just beginning. We have merely adjusted and are adapting to the ever-changing world around us as we always have.
Our new plan is to launch in January 2021 for our first full MTB Program.
We will be building off the other school’s COVID Protocols. All three programs are in the middle of their first quarter, and after their most recent COVID tests, all three schools tested 100% negative. Our schools are small enough in size to create a safe “bubble” where we are able to greatly curb our exposure to the virus. With a maximum of 16 students, no more than 7 staff in any of the programs, and isolated, boarding-school-style campus locations - we feel that our exposure to the virus is reasonably safe. The staff at each school are putting an extreme amount of effort into limiting the school’s exposure to the outside world. Besides the essential gas and supermarket stops, our biggest exposure points are where are our school’s practice our sports: river put-ins/take-outs, climbing crags, kite-launches, and soon- trailheads. But with proper protocols, those risks have been reduced as well.
We are fortunate as an educational institution to have such great options for in-person learning in these trying times.
The 2019 Graduating class from World Class Academy Kayak
World Class Academy MTB will start its first quarter in the Southwest USA. Our plan is to start in Northern Arizona, ridding the prime trails of Sedona and surrounding areas before moving through southern Utah and up to the ultra-classic hotspot of Moab in early March.
If all goes according to plan, travel restrictions ease, and it feels smart to travel internationally in March 2021, we will start our second quarter in late March in Portugal. The school has contingency plans for back up destinations if any location seems unsafe.
If you are looking to rethink education, it might be time to explore what World Class Academy can offer in our unique experiential education model.
World Class Academy Kayak AP Physics class on the banks of the Salmon River during a recent overnight trip
If you are interested in applying to be a student at World Class Academy, please check out our website
and do not hesitate to apply! Scholarships are available!
If you are interested in working for World Class Academy, check out this link
to see what we are looking for in potential faculty.
If you have any questions at all about World Class Academy, please email email@example.com