Suquamish Early College High School closing for year

SUQUAMISH — More than 20 students and six teachers will be transferred for the 2011-12 school year as the Suquamish Early College High School closes for a year.

The decision by the Suquamish Tribal Council comes after an annual review by the administration determined it will be best to reevaluate how the school operates.

“In the last few years we have been working on establishing a high school with a strong cultural feel in an attempt to raise graduation rates,” said Joe Davalos, superintendent of the Suquamish Tribe's Education Department.

Suquamish’s Early College High School is one of five early college high schools in the state and about 200 nationwide. It is aimed at giving students — mainly minority and low-income students — a better chance of succeeding after receiving their GED, by offering both high school and college credit. The current plan is to reopen the school for the 2012-13 school year.

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said the goal of closing the school was to try and make it more “cutting edge.” Though it was not an easy decision once brought to the council, he doesn’t regret it.

“It was a hard decision for the council to make and I think the community had a lot of questions, but I think we answered them the best we could,” Forsman said. “It was a bold step, but I think we’re happy that we’re making it now.”

Students enrolled for the 2011-12 year have the option to attend the school full-time via Aventa Learning, an online program used by North Kitsap School District for summer school; full-time at Kingston High School; or a mix of online and on-campus study.

The six teachers currently working at the school will be dispersed in twos to Suquamish Elementary, Kingston Middle School and Kingston High School, Davalos said. The teachers going to Suquamish Elementary — one full-time and one working 25 hours — for example, will be teacher assistants, liaisons between the school and the tribe and anything else the school needs help with instructional-wise, he said.

Suquamish Council member Wayne George said he knows the students enjoy the early college school and learning about their culture as much as core learning requirements. However, the school is still new.

“It’s not like it’s a 20-year institution,” he said. “We’re still building policies.”

When it reopens, Davalos said he would like the school to be closer to the Running Start program offered at KHS and North Kitsap High School. Davalos has worked on agreements with Olympic College, University of Washington and Northwest Indian College to offer more college credit options. Currently, students can receive college credit through OC.

In the meantime, the Suquamish education department will be completely open to its current students, Davalos said.

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