Island gets its second high school

Catherine Camp - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Catherine Camp
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

The blue and gold will be joined by the aqua and navy with the opening of Eagle Harbor High School next fall.

The Bainbridge School Board voted Thursday evening to create a second high school from the secondary program that is part of Commodore Options School.

“I think when we said we wanted to change the name, it was acknowledging how the program has evolved,” said Catherine Camp, EHHS principal. “We’ve been growing as one ‘species,’ and it’s time to adapt.”

Commodore Options School, which began in 1995-96 as a collection of programs with an alternative bent, has grown over seven years to include the Odyssey Multiage Program, the Home School Resource Center and Contract Studies, which absorbed Strawberry Hill Alternative School last fall. Among them, they offer classes for students seeking individualized instruction while Renaissance offers instruction for those facing behavioral challenges.

As students who started grade school in Odyssey matured, the program expanded to offer a middle school option in 2000-2001. Now those students are moving into their high school years.

“The Odyssey program is almost chronologically growing into a high school,” Superintendent Ken Crawford said, “so the question has been, how to utilize that dynamic to construct a small high school on that site.”

To answer that question, a task force of Odyssey, Home School and Contract Studies parents was formed last spring.

The group determined that creating a small high school by merging the Contract Studies program – offering independent learning, with one-on-one mentoring from teachers and community projects required – with elements of traditional “seat-based” learning would best serve district needs.

The first two high school years will feature more traditional classroom instruction, with freshmen in school five or six periods Monday through Friday. Students will be transitioned to to the more independent model for junior and senior year.

Freshmen will do at least one community-based project; by senior year, students will complete a major internship and more community-based learning.

Grades will be based on the 4.0 scale, or students may elect Pass/Fail at the start of each class. EHHS will keep the same schedule as BHS, so students can take classes at the main high school and have access to BHS clubs and sports.

Like BHS students, EHHS students will need 22 credits to graduate. One key difference is a shift in emphasis from test scores to portfolio review and completed projects.

Contract Studies has 65 high-school age students enrolled this year. By 2007-2008, EHHS could expect 115-140 full-time-equivalent students, based on the program’s historical growth.

But keeping the school small is the key to the flexible education EHHS will offer. Students will be encouraged to have a hand in creating and directing their academic program.

“The ‘small school’ concept provides a different level of comfort to those who might not find that same ease with the larger high school system,” Crawford said.

Not just a function of growing population, the new high school speaks to a growing intertest in educational alternatives that Camp points out is a national trend – the small-schools model.

“The state of Washington has been recognized, mostly through the Gates Foundation, as a leader in the small schools,” Camp said, “and we’re recognized as a trailblazer.

“I’m really excited that we can take our successes and roll them into a four-year comprehensive model.”

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