A New and Different School Year: How Washington’s Charter Public Schools Are Prepared to Go Remote for Fall 2020

Aug 27, 2020 | Blog

The 2020-21 school year is upon us, and the state’s 12 charter public schools are fully launched and serving students remotely, including three new schools to the sector: Catalyst Public School: Bremerton, Lumen High School in Spokane, and Impact | Salish Sea Elementary south of Seattle.

Last spring, we witnessed a nationwide scramble to keep children and teens engaged in learning during school closures caused by the pandemic. Yet amidst the panic and confusion, our schools stepped up and navigated with clear minds and bold ideas, quickly pivoting to find creative ways to continue providing innovative, equity- and trauma-informed programs, addressing the immediate needs of their communities’ health and safety while adapting unique educational models to remote learning spaces.
Since March, Washington’s charter public schools have refined remote learning programs, offered summer programming (see Rainier Prep and Catalyst, below), partnered with childcare providers to meet the needs of their students and families (see Impact Public Schools, below), and co-led online sessions with local and statewide public education partners to help districts and schools prepare for a remote re-opening (see webinar co-hosted by WA Charters and the Center for Reinventing Public Education).
This is an incredibly difficult time for students and families. Many families struggle with a need for adult supervision for their children when they go to work outside of the home. Some of Washington’s charter public schools have seen their students take part-time jobs to help keep their families financially afloat. State- and nationwide, inequitable access to wi-fi and the digital tools needed for distance learning have widened opportunity gaps. Meanwhile, there is the very real challenge that kids are struggling with long-term isolation.

Washington’s charter public schools continue to be well-positioned to respond to the unprecedented impact of a dual pandemic: COVID-19 and widespread, systemic racism. Being nimble, adaptive and responsive to communities in real-time is built into our DNA. 
More than ever, Washington’s charter public schools are leaning on community values, learning science, public health, and a sincere care for the safety and well-being of their students, staff, and families. While each charter model is unique, all schools are working to strike a fine balance of computer- and non-computer-based learning, synchronous (online and live) and asynchronous (online without real-time interaction) instruction, and live teaching and project-time learning.
Until schools individually determine a safe path back to in-person learning for their students, Washington’s charter public school sector will continue to address these challenges and provide high-quality remote learning that enables children and teens to thrive academically and emotionally. 

Scroll for a school-by-school overview.

Catalyst Public School Bremerton | First Year of Operation
School begins with family intake meetings on August 27
School began September 8

In its inaugural year, Catalyst will serve grades K-1 and 5-6. The school initially imagined launching a hybrid model with an in-person component in its brand-new facility, but following guidance from Kitsap County health officials, will launch as a fully remote program. Of note, over the summer, Catalyst piloted and led a successful remote program, Camp Catalyst. The school is confident and prepared to welcome scholars with engaging learning plans that offer the flexibility to address individual needs and build community through shared virtual platforms. 
Learn more about Catalyst

Impact Public Schools
Impact | Puget Sound Elementary | Tukwila | Third Year of Operation
Impact | Salish Sea Elementary | Tukwila/Seattle | First Year of Operation
School began August 24
IPS, the state’s first “homegrown” charter public school network, has set out to build a world-class model for elementary remote education. IPS was one of ten schools in the nation recognized with an Above and Beyond Award by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in May 2020 for its exceptional community and scholar service amidst COVID-19. Responsive to the stresses caused by the pandemic and systemic racism, the “Impact at Home” program keeps scholars deeply engaged in social emotional learning and decolonized project-based curriculum. Impact at Home includes daily, synchronous instruction that includes a “just right” small (6-7 kids) reading and math group each day.
IPS is committed to offering families one-on-one, socially distant, in-person visits with teachers every six weeks, so that scholars and parents can connect with teachers for deeper, in-person social emotional learning and retrieve new materials and books. These visits are currently taking place outdoors.
Additionally, through a community partnership, Impact is providing full-day childcare to its families in its Tukwila school facility until the school can open for in-person, full-time schooling.
Learn more about Impact | Puget Sound Elementary
Learn more about Impact | Salish Sea Elementary

Innovation Charter School (ICS) | Walla Walla | Third Year of Operation
School began September 8
While ICS (formerly Willow Public School) is offering a program that will be fully accessible online, the school is also offering in-person, socially distant opportunities for students, including 1:1 meetings with their “Crew leaders” and teachers, and small group activities for up to five students at a time.
ICS is hosting orientation sessions for families between September 1-4, to ensure students and families are fully equipped to go “back to school.”
Learn more about ICS

Lumen High School | Spokane | First Year of Operation
School began September 9
Lumen is excited to be serving teen parents and their children in its inaugural year. The first-of-its-kind charter high school is dedicated to empowering two generations through high academic standards and a specialized early learning center. Because the school provides daycare and preschool for student-parents’ children, it is working to find an on-site solution. While the bulk of the high school program will begin fully remotely, the school is committed to opening its doors for at least some in-person childcare in the fall.
Learn more about Lumen

PRIDE Prep | Spokane | Sixth Year of Operation
School began September 8
PRIDE Prep is excited to be offering a remote program that has evolved based on its learnings from Spring 2020. PRIDE’s virtual classrooms will now be smaller to allow for more individualized instruction, and there will be a continuous communications loop between teachers, parents, and students to ensure that students stay on track and have the support they need to succeed.
The school’s model is flexible and iterative, and it will closely monitor and support individualized education growth through daily assessments. PRIDE is delivering a remote plan designed to keep students connected with teachers and peers to reinforce the positive school culture and quality education experiences.
Learn more about PRIDE

Rainier Prep | Highline | Sixth Year of Operation
School began September 1
Rainier Prep has opened fully remote for Fall 2020, following summer programming that featured problem-solving, character strength development, inquiry, and literacy for rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. During the summer, students and teachers worked together to innovate and develop comprehensive learning experiences that will inform how school can work best this Fall.
Rainier Prep is offering both synchronous and asynchronous learning, and shared classroom time as well as individual learning time. Students will benefit from Rainier Prep’s rigorous curriculum, especially when coupled with one-on-one time with advisors for social emotional learning and academic support. Rainier Prep will continue to maintain strong partnerships and communications with staff and families.  
Learn more about Rainier Prep

Rainier Valley Leadership Academy | Seattle | Fourth Year of Operation
School began August 24
When the COVID-19 outbreak struck in March, RVLA pivoted quickly to ensure that they could continue to offer high-quality learning rooted in the school’s pillars of Collaborative Community, Anti-Racism and Leadership. In RVLA’s ongoing commitment to serving their community while ensuring scholar safety, they are opening remotely with the same level of support the community has come to expect from them.
Online family portals will provide detailed outlines for how scholars will engage in virtual platforms to integrate their hands-on, real-world learning opportunities with rigorous academics. Families will continue to receive weekly calls from their mentor teachers to ensure emotional and academic supports for every scholar. Curriculum is continuing to be decolonized with middle school scholars taking African Studies and high school scholars taking Ethnic Studies. Over 75 percent of the teaching staff mirrors the racial identity of the scholars being served, and all teachers are attending anti-racist trainings on a continuous basis as part of living out the pillars of the school’s model.
Learn more about RVLA

Spokane International Academy | Spokane | Sixth Year of Operation
School began September 8
SIA plans to stay true to their promise for students to receive a world-class education while providing a remote model during the COVID-19 crisis. SIA has pivoted to offer a fully remote program until it can safely transition to a hybrid model. SIA families can expect a full day of immersive learning for every student with a blend of classroom instruction time and independent learning, including opportunities for students to connect with advisors and teachers on a one-on-one basis.
Learn more about SIA

Summit Public Schools Washington
Summit: Atlas | West Seattle | Fourth Year of Operation
Summit: Olympus | Tacoma | Sixth Year of Operation
Summit: Sierra | Seattle | Sixth Year of Operation
School began on August 18
Deeply committed to social emotional learning for all students, Summit was the first Washington charter public school to commit to a fully remote program for Fall 2020. Summit, which was able to swiftly transition to fully remote last spring utilizing its personalized learning platform, will open its three Washington schools every day with a morning routine providing an opportunity, to begin with smiles, laughs and deep connections, remotely. Summit works to support students by developing habits of success, a model that has proven particularly effective in virtual learning settings. Summit students develop goals and the pathways to reach them which helps form strong study habits that translate into remote learning successes. 

With a blend of teacher-facilitated learning with teacher and peer mentors, project time, and academic blocks, Summit students will continue to receive thoughtful instruction and independent learning time to develop strong habits of success. Summit Public Schools began the year on August 18 with a new student onboarding, followed by a week of relationship building for students to develop trust and bonds with each other, their teachers, and the school community.

Learn more about Summit Public Schools: Atlas
Learn more about Summit Public Schools: Olympus
Learn more about Summit Public Schools: Sierra


About WA Charters

The Washington State Charter Schools Association is a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for and supports high-quality charter public schools that meet the needs of systemically underserved students. To learn more, visit www.wacharters.org.