- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - This fall, nine charter schools are opening their doors across Washington state.

EXCEL PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL, a middle school in Kent.

School leader Adel Sefrioui says Excel will be a computer-science focused school. It will begin with just sixth and seventh grades and add a grade each year until it becomes a middle and high school. Students will get double the amount of math, science and English language arts instruction, by extending the school day to 8 ½ hours.

One of the attractions of the school is its “maker space,” where students can hang out after school and turn their ideas into inventions, under the guidance of a mechanical engineer who used to work at Microsoft.


SUMMIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS SIERRA, a high school in Seattle’s International District

School leader Malia Burns expects students at Sierra to be excited about the school’s expeditions model, where they will pick an area of focus each semester and spend blocks of time learning a new skill like cooking, fashion design or computer programming. They will use those skills to complete a project.

The school is right in the middle of Seattle’s International District and fits the character of the neighborhood by maintaining the exterior of the Asian community center they have recreated as a high school. Summit is opening with just over 100 ninth-graders and will add a grade each year.


The school will start with kindergarten, first and sixth grades and grow from there to build a K-8 school. The school will use the Cambridge International curriculum, and the academic program will be heavy on projects and hands-on learning, explains head of school Travis Franklin. For example, the school is building a garden where sixth-graders can study and experiment around their biology lessons.


Inside a restored historic school with a view of Mount Rainier, this middle school from the Green Dot network of charter schools has designed its curriculum around college readiness. Advisers will work with small groups of students to help them improve their learning skills and focus on the future.

The school will focus on improving math and English literacy, providing extra help and extra class time for everyone who needs it.

The staff of the school mirrors the diversity of the students, which is similar to the Tacoma school district. The school expects to have a larger percentage of students needing special education or services for non-English speakers than is average for schools in the district.

RAINIER PREP, a middle school in Highline

Located on the edge of several high-poverty communities in south King and north Pierce counties, Rainier Prep is a college-focused school that will start with about 160 total fifth and sixth graders in the first year and eventually go up to eighth grade.

School leader Maggie O’Sullivan says she wanted to start in fifth grade because she believes four years is the time it takes for students to get focused before the challenges of high school. They will have a longer school day that mirrors the work day: 8:45 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. and classes will be in block schedule.

SUMMIT OLYMPUS, a high school in Tacoma

Like the other Summit school opening in Seattle, Olympus will have a focus on mentorship. Every student will have a mentor teacher who follows them throughout their four years of school, helping students focus on their learning and college goals.

The curriculum will be project-based with an emphasis on math, writing and reading. Students will be expected to meet college-ready standards, not just the state’s high school graduation requirements, said school leader Gina Wickstea.

The school will start with ninth grade.

SOAR ACADEMY, a K-8 school in Tacoma

The academic program at this elementary in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma is based on a curriculum on direct instruction out of the University of Oregon. The school will also have an arts focus, with every student taking a dance class most days of the week.

School leader Kristina Bellamy says almost all the learning will happen in small groups, with students divided by ability and moving ahead at their own pace. Teachers, students and parents will work together to create learning plans for the students.

Just over 100 students from around the region will open the school with kindergarten and first grade classes.

PRIDE PREP, a middle school expanding to a middle and high school in Spokane

Leadership development and student coaching are part of the academic approach at this middle and high school. In addition to college-prep academics, students will focus on problem-solving and interpersonal skills. The school will be partnering with local businesses to help educate students to be ready to become part of the future workforce.

In the first year, the school will have just sixth and seventh graders.

FIRST PLACE SCHOLARS, elementary school in Seattle

Entering its second year as a charter school, First Place focuses on students living in poverty with intensive learning and wraparound services. School leader Linda Whitehead says they will be using a new reading program this year and literacy will be a school-wide focus.

The school in Seattle’s Central District offers resources for the whole family, including parent education, housing, health care and clothing assistance. First Place began as a private school for homeless children in 1989 and became the state’s first charter school in fall 2014.

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