Nathan Rusch

Hillyard K-8 to get a Cambridge education

Nathan Rusch, Planning & Development Services, No Phone Number Available

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 11:06 a.m.

Hillyard K-8 to get a Cambridge education

For 8 years, Travis Franklin has been a 5th and 6th grade teacher for all but one of the eight Mead Elementary Schools. He's a part of the Washington State Charter Schools Association Fellowship and in the upcoming fall, he will be the new Dean of the Spokane International Academy in Hillyard.

The new charter school, scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2015, will rent out 12 classrooms from St. Patrick's Catholic School along Queen Avenue for its first two years before it outgrows itself and looks for additional space. The school's curriculum uses the Cambridge International Examinations standards used in over 10,000 schools across 160 countries. In addition, students K-8 will be required to learn a second language using the Rosetta Stone program and instruction by native speakers. Classroom work will also be paired with service learning projects and field studies within the local community to reinforce the applicability of class material as well as student investment in their neighborhood.

“School is a community hub,” Travis said.

Travis doesn't only want to engage students, but their parents and family as well. Travis envisions a place with a reason for families to be there and be active participants. There ought to be authentic parental involvement beyond guest-speaking for a classroom - “culture talk.”

To cram all that engagement and learning into a school year, the Spokane International Academy is extending its day from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and to 1:00pm on Friday to include something my middle school never had: breakfast.

As a public school chartered by Spokane Public Schools and funded by the federal and state government, enrollment is open and free. The school is not targeted exclusively for academically-gifted children, either. The Hillyard area was specifically chosen for its diversity. The school feels confident in its curriculum; which although rigorous in content, is written in an accessible language designed for its use worldwide. Lower-income, ethnically diverse students with an involved faculty can be any bit as successful as their more privileged counterparts.

The new school will enroll 480 students – no more than 60 students per grade with a teacher-student ratio of 1:20. The class sizes are deliberately kept small so that teachers might develop authentic relationships with their students -- something Travis feels is often lost with at-risk students in the transition from 6th to 7th grade. He cites several examples of lower-income districts with high success rates, largely attributed to the engagement of their instructors.

Current efforts, such as NewTech Skills Center and the NEPDA's upcoming workforce development program, address at-risk youth at the high school level. Travis and other leaders at the new Spokane International Academy want to reach these students at the elementary and middle school-aged levels as well. The Academy hopes not just to invest in these children, but in the community as a whole.

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