Have you considered private school for your child but realized that it isn't an option for your family's budget? Or have a child that would benefit from an accelerated learning program or smaller school community? Then keep in mind that the Lake Washington and Issaquah school districts offer a number of different options, including "choice school programs" and "enrichment and accelerated learning programs."
Lake Washington School District
Melissa Pendleton is a Sammamish parent of two sons, age nine and 12. Her 12-year-old son Nate attends the in Kirkland, one of several “choice schools” offered within the Lake Washington School District. Pendleton says that several factors motivated her and her husband to enter Nate in the enrollment lottery for a spot at the school.
“ is really large and I knew he would do better at a smaller school. Nate likes science and that is a big part of the curriculum,” Pendleton said.
Pendleton admits that it takes more effort to get Nate to and from EAS. To get to EAS, he catches a bus that leaves from Mead at 6:45 am and endures another long bus ride coming home. But the unique field trip options, electives including rock climbing, challenging curriculum and connections between the school’s 140 students and teachers make the long bus rides worth it, says Pendleton.
Judi McLaughlin is the mother of two and another plateau parent who also opted to send her son to a choice school instead of Inglewood. Her 14-year-old, Joshua, is a ninth grader at the , housed on the campus. McLaughlin is also the current president of RSAR’s PTSA. She values the school’s small size, just 90 students in all three grades. She says that she is aware that the school has the reputation as an “art school” but says the reality is “we are a math, science and performing arts skills school.”
The Lake Washington School District offers a number of “choice school options” that all students living in the district are eligible to attend including three elementary schools, several junior high programs and the nationally recognized , which serves grades seven through 12, and the new STEM High School, opening enrollment this fall. Information on all the district’s choice school options and their enrollment procedures is available on the district’s website.
All applicants to the district’s choice schools enter an application process that usually includes mandatory attendance of an information night, often offered in January, participation in a tour of the school and then submitting an application by the deadline, which is entered into a lottery conducted by the district for the available fall openings.
In addition to the choice school programs, the Lake Washington School District offers accelerated learning programs including the QUEST program for elementary and junior high students and the Cambridge International Certificate program for high school students. Information about the programs is available on the district’s website.
Dan Phelan is Director of accelerated programs for the Lake Washington School District. Phelan has seen an increase in applications to the Quest program over the past three years.
“Our program is changing next year due to reconfiguration of our elementary schools to K-5 schools and our junior high schools to 6-8 middle schools. As a part of that change, our Quest program will be serving students in grades 2-8,” Phelan says.
Phelan says that parents who are interested in the Quest program should “make sure your child can handle the testing requirements.” “Accelerated” or “advanced” learning programs often require standardized testing as part of the process. Phelan says that children often enter the Quest program in second grade, which means they must apply and test for the program early in their first grade year. Those tests require that a “first grader be able to read at or above second-grade level, follow instructions and be able to correctly fill in a ‘bubble-style’ standardized test,” he says.
Issaquah School District
The Issaquah School District also offers several choice and accelerated programs. Sara Niegowski, Executive Director of Communications, says that the program options for students residing within the Issaquah School District include the Science-Technology Program, an elementary magnet program for fourth- and fifth-graders that covers the regular curriculum with a strong emphasis on science and technology. The program is available at three of the district’s elementary schools. The SAGE (Special Approach to Gifted Education) is a gifted pull-out program offered at every elementary school for qualifying third- through fifth-graders. The MERLIN (Mind Education Right Left Integration) is a magnet program for gifted third- through fifth-graders offered in two of the district's elementary schools. Students must qualify for the program through testing.
Middle school students may apply for Humanities Plus, an accelerated program for middle-school students at each school that combines social studies and language arts with added rigor and higher expectations. And Neigowski says, “throughout middle and high-school, students are able to self select accelerated programs, meaning they can take opt to bypass certain courses to proceed more quickly through classes and to attain higher courses. For instance, there is a “math path 1” which has students complete one year of high school calculus, and there is a “math path II” that has students complete two years of high school calculus. Most classes are structured for acceleration options—IB or AP versions, etc..”
Smart plateau parents are checking out public school options like the Humanities Plus program now, taking note of the upcoming information nights and application deadlines. Keep in mind that even after you meet all the application requirements, that the popular programs often have many more applicants then available enrollment spots. You can always hope that your child is one of the lucky ones to land a spot in a public school program that could change his or her future.