Students will soon be able to take advantage of the state’s new ESA program in 2024, the Utah Fits All Scholarship, and Gabe Pethtel, the head of Intermountain Christian School (ICS) looks forward to students utilizing it for tuition expenses.
In the meantime, the school continues to keep tuition affordable by providing financial assistance to families who need it. As inflation results in increased costs, Pethtel says the school tries to find new ways to minimize the impact on families.
“We definitely have had to raise tuition this last year, but we kept to what we felt was reasonable,” Pethtel told The Lion. “Mainly, one of my jobs is to raise money to be able to offset that, so we do get aid or gifts that come in that are specific to helping [in this way].”
Around 35% of students participate in the school’s tuition assistance program, the website states.
The school, which describes itself as a “Christ-centered learning community that exists to equip and inspire students to thrive in God’s world,” is also finding new ways to innovate.
One focus, for example, is its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. Elementary students benefit from a science lab, which Pethtel anticipates creating for middle and high school students, too.
Students are also able to learn computer programming, get acquainted with virtual reality technology and conduct various related experiments. They also have had the opportunity to interact with astronauts who work at the International Space Station (ISS).
“We definitely want to become a Christian school that is aspiring to be the school of choice for all Christians in the Salt Lake Valley,” Pethtel said. “But also, we want to be a school that’s a leader among all schools. So I’d be happy if public schools want to start an ISS program and want to become a part of it, but we’re the first in the state of Utah to do this.”
Pethtel wants to make sure all students, regardless of perceived intellectual giftedness, are exposed to STEM.
Students at ICS also benefit from annual class trips called “field studies.” Not only are the trips an opportunity to learn, but students also get to serve others in ministry, as well as explore new places outside the classroom. This year, for example, one group got to travel to Washington, D.C., while other groups went to Colorado Springs and Southern Utah.
Pethtel anticipates even greater growth and innovation that may be fueled when the state’s ESA program takes effect, perhaps bringing new families to the school. “More and more families would be blessed by [ESAs],” Pethtel said.