What is the 'choice' in the LWSD? | Column
By JOY BROOKE
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
September 13, 2012 · Updated 8:45 AM
Dear Mrs. Brooke,
My neighbor said her child was going to a “choice school” this coming year. What does that mean and is it still a public school? If so, how is it different?
Interested Neighbor in Kirkland
Dear Interested Neighbor,
Thanks for your question. It is a great one and a question I asked myself several months ago as I prepared to enroll my son in kindergarten in the Lake Washington School District. I investigated the “choice” school option that our public school district provided and discovered much information that even as a teacher in the district for many years, I did not know. If you visit the district website you too can learn more about each of the 11 schools offered in the district.
According to this website, “choice schools are optional schooling alternatives, created to meet specific needs and interests. They are designed to be smaller and use innovative approaches to education that are different from traditional public schools.” The site goes on to explain that these schools may be different than a traditional school because they may have more focus on hands on learning and project-based learning, integrated curriculum, multi-age classrooms, or a focus on the arts or science, home-schooling partnerships, vocational programs, or graduation support. These schools were all founded on guiding principles and were initiated by community members and school staff. Most are usually housed on campus with a traditional school.
There are three elementary choice schools: Community, Discovery Community and Explorer Community. Currently, Discovery Community is kindergarten through fifth grade, while Community and Explorer are first through fifth grade.
There are four middle choice schools: Environmental and Adventure, Northstar, Renaissance School of Art and Reasoning, and Stella Schola. These are all now sixth through eighth grade.
At the high school level, ninth through 12th grade, there are three choice schools: International Community School, STEM, and Futures.
There is also Emerson School, formerly the Family Learning Center and known as BEST High School, which is a fully accredited K-12 school that provides instruction and support for families who home school their students.
These choice schools are open to all students in the Lake Washington School District. However, it is run on a lottery system, which means there is an application process but there is limited space. Each school has their own application procedures. Most applications are due in early January and families usually must attend an informational night meeting that month. Another important consideration is that transportation to and from is usually not provided.
I am encouraged of the “choice” in our community and thank you for asking this question. I hope you learn more from your neighbor about her/his personal experience being apart of one of these “choice” schools. I know many of these choice schools, just like traditional schools depend on members of the community to help support their programs. Possibly, with your high interest level you could become involved in some way.
Just by asking this question you have already helped to inform members of our community of the opportunities our local school district provides beyond traditional schools. I am willing to bet you’ve even empowered some parents to continue to search out the best learning environment as their child’s first and most important teacher in learning about these alternative “choice” schools.
Thank you for being an interested and good neighbor to us all.