By Amy Culley
Nine Mile Falls Reporter
The Nine Mile Falls School District has an exciting new option for families of students in grades K-5, debuting this fall of 2021. The 9Mile Family Partnership program (9MFP) is intended for those families who found aspects of distance learning appealing, but aren’t necessarily interested in doing it alone. They might want more choice in their child’s curriculum and general education while keeping them enrolled in the school district.
Nine Mile Falls Elementary School Principal Peter Elzey said there were families in the district who enjoyed having their children learning at home full-time during the pandemic. It worked well for them, and they’d like to continue along that path while still being part of the school. A survey sent out in early March confirmed community interest and that’s how the program got its official start.
The 9MFP allows families to continue in the vein of schooling at home with support from an educational specialist within the district. Parents will join forces with the specialist to define the child’s individual educational goals, choose learning materials, and ensure the child is meeting Washington State educational standards. The parent will be considered the primary teacher, supported by the school district.
The launch in fall of 2021 will target kindergarten through fifth grade students, with the idea of following them in their educational journey through later grade levels as the program grows. If older students want to participate, Principal Elzey said there is an A.L.E. (Alternative Learning Experience) program currently in place for high school students. Parents wanting to know more about that program can inquire at the high school for more information.
Educational Specialist Melissa Fuller, a veteran elementary school teacher with 25 years of teaching experience, has been hired to lead 9MFP. She currently teaches fifth grade at Lake Spokane Elementary. Fuller said that about five years ago conversations about a parent partnership program began to take place, and she felt a calling to somehow be involved. Pieces slowly started coming together, and then last fall Lakeside High School Principal Brent Osborn wrote a grant through the Hagan Foundation that provided the needed funding to get the program started.
Fuller said her job will be to support and encourage families, connect them with materials and resources, provide classroom experiences for students, and help all involved make sure they are on pace to complete the year’s worth of learning. For the first year, the plan is for Fuller to be available three days a week at Lake Spokane Elementary on a to-be-determined schedule once enrollment numbers are known. The district is prepared to add more staff if needed for this program, based upon those enrollment numbers.
Core and extracurricular classes will also be offered one day a week in-person at Lake Spokane Elementary. In-person class content will be determined according to survey feedback, student interest, and written learning plan needs. The program will have its own dedicated classroom with a secure separate entrance and parking space for parents. Families will not need to check in at the front office for classes and appointments.
Grades K-2 will have one full day of in-person learning, and grades 3-5 will have another. Fuller will be available for in-person learning opportunities and personal interaction, and students will be there for the equally important socialization piece of education.
Students enrolled in 9MFP will be considered public school students. As such, Washington State requires a student learning plan for each child in the program, detailing the specific academic plan with monthly progress reports. These tools will help parents ensure their child is on track and keeping up with students who are in the classroom full-time. There will also be MAP testing three times a year to gauge each child’s specific academic growth.
Enrollment began in early May. Interested families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible so planning for next year can begin. There is an online application for interested families to fill out on the district website; thereafter, contact will be made, and a meeting will be set up to go over program specifics and make sure the parent partnership model is a good fit. Those families deciding to go forward will work with Fuller to develop a learning plan for their child.
The program will also benefit regularly enrolled, in-person, Nine Mile students. Since the 9MFP students are considered public school students, the district will receive state and federal funds for each enrolled child, as usual. Those funds benefit all students enrolled in the district by providing supplies, technology, teacher salaries, curriculum, and extracurricular learning opportunities. An added benefit of the 9MFP is that it’s open to out-of-district students as well, on a yearly basis, as space and needs allow.
It’s important to note that the just-passed Proposition 1 school levy, approved by the Nine Mile community in February’s special election, is not involved in the funding of this program.
For additional information regarding the 9MFP, please visit https://www.9mile.org.