Hats off to our new high school

Bainbridge public schools grew this week – and got smaller.

This seeming paradox is embodied by Eagle Harbor High School, a new institution formally approved with some fanfare by the Bainbridge School Board Thursday evening.

Created from the existing Contract Studies program that is housed with the district’s other “options” programs (the term “alternative” have fallen out of favor for being too laden with negative baggage) at the Commodore Center, EHHS transforms the island into a two high-school town.

But EHHS also represents a new and increasingly popular national mode of education, a “small schools” model that acknowledges that putting a thousand or more adolescents under one roof for the final four years of free public education doesn’t work for every kid. That’s how the school – whose opening marks another milestone of Bainbridge growth – also embodies an enduring island value, the belief that there is merit in the intimacy of “small.”

EHHS won’t appeal to every student. Don’t expect a sudden exodus from Bainbridge High School.

But it will find a student body among those inclined to follow their own star. Students will sit in classes, but the kids will also learn in the non-traditional ways developed in the popular Contract Studies program, with independent projects and community internships. It’s speaks well of our local educators and school board members, and their willingness to consider non-traditional models to ensure a good educational fit for all.

“We have always thought of Bainbridge Island as a one-high-school island,” school board president Cheryl Dale told us Friday. “We are very excited about a second high school that opens up additional educational opportunities for students whose needs are not met by the typical school.”

We can foresee a benefit to island businesses, as partnerships with the school send young people to glean hands-on education in the community that may help bridge the gap between school and career for the kids – and the gap between community and schools.

Our two high schools will not be in competition on the playing fields or in the academic arena. Those who hope to see a Sparts vs. Eagles (?) football will be disappointed, as EHHS students will play sports with BHS teams, and will probably take a few classes at BHS as well.

Bainbridge schools are openly acknowledged to be among the state’s best. Ask any new Bainbridge resident with kids why they relocated here and you’re likely to find the schools’ high rating near the top of the list of reasons.

Offering another choice, we believe, can only strengthen our school district, and our community.

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