North Thurston School Board announces name of new alternative learning school

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The North Thurston Public Schools district board met via Zoom last night for a regular board meeting. Topics included student preparedness in terms of post-secondary success, the announcement of the newest recipient of the Board Recognition Award, and the name of the Alternative Learning Program coming this fall.

New school name selected

The Alternative Learning Program is a fully online school for students in all grades, to be available at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school-year.

The board selected a name last night following a review by students, community members, and building and district staff. The ad hoc group was given 20 names and narrowed that down to three.

These three options, along with an explanation of why they were selected as the final three, were provided to the board. Names included:

  1. Aster Virtual Academy (because the aster flower is native to the Pacific Northwest) with an owl holding an aster proposed as the logo.
  2. Compass Virtual Academy (because of the state’s discovery through the Lewis and Clark expedition) with a compass proposed as the logo.
  3. Summit Virtual Academy (with the state’s mountains in mind) and would have Mount Rainier as the logo.

At first, the board was split between Aster and Summit for the official name but after a few compelling arguments about Summit reflecting on student perseverance in rising above the pandemic and striving for the top, the board officially voted to name the alternative learning program Summit Virtual Academy.

Board Recognition Award

 This award was established to recognize extraordinary work done by district staff members during the pandemic.

The board announced Karen Johnson as the newest recipient for her outstanding service in reinventing the library program. Johnson was recognized for partnering with Timberland Regional Library, stocking the library with diverse books, and ensuring high-quality English language arts books and setting the stage for life-long learners.

 Meeting the Needs of Individual Students in Latinx Community

The board also summed up some of the main takeaways from the virtual Community Conversation event held on Jan. 21. The purpose of this event was to open up conversations with the district’s Latinx community and discuss how they can better serve those students. This event was tied closely to the district’s fourth goal, specifically Outcome C, “Continuous growth for all students.”

The main takeaways included: the language line and distribution of resources to Latinx families, establishing a Spanish-language call center, ensuring Spanish-speaking staff are available and can provide support to Latinx families and partnering with Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO) to provide necessary services.

Preparedness for Post-Secondary Success

 The board also took a look at Goal 5 from the superintendent’s yearly focus list, “Preparedness for Post-Secondary Success.” From the district’s presentation materials, Goal 5 includes these components:

  • Increased high school graduation rates for all student groups with a specific focus on English learners, special education, and low-income students because they have the lowest graduation rates.
  • Increased percentage of seniors with a High School and Beyond Plan that includes either an acceptance letter to college, the military, trade/technical training, industry certification/apprenticeship, or verifiable employment.
  • Increased percentage of high school graduates experiencing post-high school growth success 1-2 years after graduation.
  • Decreased percentage of graduates required to take remedial classes in college. These courses build skills in basic math, reading, or English before a student can enroll in regular college courses.
  • Increased percentage of students who earn a Washington State Seal of Biliteracy--an award to recognize students in the U.S who have obtained a proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English by the time of graduation.

After addressing data points for each of the sub-goals and their relationship to the district’s fifth goal for the year, the board approved the necessary changes for the 2021-2022 school-year.

  • Increase by 15 the number of students who earn their Seal of Biliteracy for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Continue established goal of increasing the 5-year graduation rate for English learners, special education, and low-income students to at least 90%. Currently these populations are graduating at rates between 70-85%.
  • Move all schools to 90% completion of High School and Beyond Plan and provide Career and Technical Education (CTE).

WIAA Sports Update

 The board also heard from its most senior member, Chuck Namit, about the official start of high school sports. Namit is the district’s representative to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA).

“Tonight begins some sports activities--soccer, volleyball, swimming, football, and cross country. Slowly we are getting back in the groove of things and sports are an important part of that,” said Namit.

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