Puyallup School District to explore alternative academic programs

Schools: Board approves chartering a team to research, develop new choices

of the HeraldMarch 19, 2014 

As part of its mission, the Puyallup School District provides programs that meet students at different academic levels. Now administrators are curious what they can offer in the future.

The district’s board of directors voted unanimously March 3 to approve the charter of a lead team that will explore rigorous academic options.

“This will be a way to expand choice for families and looking at what kind of choices do families want,” said Brian Lowney, a chief academic officer who will help to create the team.

Some of those options could be to expand highly capable programs such as PAGE at Kalles Junior High to high school students, Lowney said. Others could explore stronger business partnerships to grow STEM curriculum, or to consider an international baccalaureate program at the high school level, Lowney said.

“Another consideration is how we tackle high school growth in our district,” he said. “We are not, at this point, considering a fourth comprehensive high school, even though our high schools are full and growing.”

Lowney said an option could be to explore a non-comprehensive high school design to serve a smaller population of students where classes would be on a single-focus curriculum.

“At Emerald Ridge, there are over 100 classes for 10th to 12th grades,” Lowney cited as an example. “At a non-comprehensive high school, there wouldn’t be nearly as many classes offered.”

Lowney was a principal at Emerald Ridge for 10 years. He started last fall as a chief academic officer.

The school district would like to have 12 to 15 members on the lead team. Lowney said they would be evenly comprised of parents, students, community residents and school staff members. Junior high students would serve the team well because they would be most affected by any new programs, Lowney said.

Lead team applications are due to Lowney by April 15. The team would be charged with researching and developing highly rigorous academic options that could be offered as an alternative to the traditional comprehensive high school experience in grades 10-12. The team would report its findings to the school board in October.

New program options could potentially start in September 2015, according to a school district report.

Lowney said the district is looking for people who will “come with an open mind.”

“We want folks who have a passion for our school district and for choice,” he said. “We are looking for folks who are willing to collaborate, work as part of a team and be creative.”

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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