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Chief Kitsap Academy opens its doors for new school year

Peg Deam welcomes the students to the first class of Chief Kitsap Academy, in Suquamish. - Kipp Robertson / Herald
Peg Deam welcomes the students to the first class of Chief Kitsap Academy, in Suquamish.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson / Herald

SUQUAMISH — Chief Kitsap Academy opened its doors for the first time Wednesday, and Superintendent Joe Davalos already had high expectations for the new school.

“I expect to have a whole bunch of people who are going to want to come here in one year,” Davalos said.

Chief Kitsap Academy, formerly Early College High School, held a student orientation and celebration Wednesday. The vision from the original school to the Academy hasn’t changed much, Davalos said. However, the preparation that’s gone into the school is expected to make a difference.

“We spent one year preparing for today,” Davalos said.

The academy enrolled 30 eighth-grade students, who live within the attendance boundary of Suquamish Elementary. The students are enrolled in North Kitsap School District.

By being in collaboration with NKSD, the students will be required to pass all state-mandated tests.

The school is funded primarily by the Suquamish Tribe. Services, such as counseling, nursing and special education from NKSD will be available to the 30 enrolled in the academy.

Still connected to the public school system, Davalos said everything done within the academy will be up to standards of Washington codes. Every teacher has a degree and is certificated in either a single or multiple disciplines, he said.

Davalos began restructuring the academy by hiring the new principal, Fabian Castilleja. He said Castilleja has experience at both large and small schools in Washington and Oregon.

Castilleja last worked as principal of Tulalip Elementary School. He enjoys working within small, rural populations and with Native American communities.

Along with Castilleja, four classroom teachers, a librarian and technology support specialist were hired.

Though the school administration says the school will adhere to standards met by the public school system, Castilleja said the academy allows for more flexibility. Students, for example, will receive iPads that will be used within the curriculum.

The academy will also offer classes and material with a Native American focus. History classes will include a sovereignty curriculum. A Lushootseed foreign language class that meets state requirements will be offered.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in the Healing of the Canoe, which focuses on promoting culture identity, health and wellness among S’Klallam and Suquamish students.

Students will attend four, 97-minute classes. In four years, students have the opportunity to earn 32 credits, which can include earning college credit once core high school credits have been earned.

The original Early College High School closed for the 2011-12 school year. The decision to close the school followed an annual review by the administration.

Like the academy, the Early College High School was one of five early college high schools in the state and about 200 nationwide. It was 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. Students had the opportunity to receive credit from Olympic College.

The academy makes up a large portion of the old administrative offices off Sandy Hook Road. There is a classroom for each teacher and a computer lab. A library is occupying a portion of the upstairs area, where the museum once was. The museum relocated to a new site in Suquamish Village.

Though the school is currently catering to high school students, Castilleja said offering curriculum for grades six through 12 may be in the near future if all goes well for the academy. That could include building additional classrooms.

 

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