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MITCH moves into new digs in Calvin Presbyterian Church

Staff and students will have lots of room at Tigard's Calvin Presbyterian Church
by: Jaime Valdez, PREP TIME — Angela Willner, who is working for the first time at MITCH Charter School as the first-grade teacher, unloads a box of books in her new classroom at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

TIGARD - The phone brought good news to some parents Monday morning - MITCH Charter School had room for their kids this coming year.

April McCoy, whose third-grade daughter Claire had been on the waiting list, rushed over to pick up an information packet.

'Claire went to Deer Creek last year, and it is a really good school, but it has a different approach,' McCoy said. 'I had homeschooled her, and she dropped a bit in reading after going to Deer Creek. I had been interested in the classical approach to teaching - learning the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic - and building a good foundation, going back to a simpler approach.

'I'm really excited about her going here. I feel very fortunate. We just got the call this morning that she got in.'

MITCH, which stands for Multi-sensory Instruction Teaching Children Hands-on - an acronym for Director Debi Lorence's friend who died while they were planning the charter school - is a core knowledge school. It focuses on readiness in all language arts, work and study habits, autonomy, social skills and motor skills plus cognitive development.

While the curriculum has remained stable, the only charter school in the Tigard-Tualatin School District is now settling into its fourth location in five years at Calvin Presbyterian Church at the intersection of Canterbury Lane and 103rd Avenue in Tigard.

The school operated in the Tigard Baptist Church for its first two years, then spent a year at the old Tualatin Elementary School before moving into portables at Tigard High School last year. Now, however, the school has settled into a beautiful facility, leasing the entire downstairs of the church plus using the main floor gymnasium for its cafeteria.

'This is the best of the best,' Lorence said. 'It is so different from our last places. Since we're leasing it for 12 months, we maybe will have some summer programs next year.'

The daylight lower level of the church includes its own entrance whose hallway leads into a large room that will be used for art. Off that room are the classrooms for kindergartners through fifth-graders. The sixth- and seventh-grade classes are nearby on the other side of the music room in another part of the building

'We have a huge parking lot to use, and we may be able to grow our own garden,' Lorence said. 'Isn't it cool?'

The staff moved in last Friday night and Saturday. On Monday the teachers were undergoing training to prepare for the next school year and finishing unpacking.

The school, which has a total of 160 students, has only 20 per class, except for the first grade, which has 22 kids, and operates four days per week. About 35 percent of the students are from outside the district.

'For the second year, swimming lessons are included for second- through fifth-graders at the Tigard Swim Center,' Lorence said. 'The sixth- and seventh-graders will go to Meriweather Outdoor Camp for a week in September. We can offer after-school care this year.'

On Fridays, parents can opt to send their kids to the school for specialty classes, private lessons in Spanish and music, and monthly field trips.

MITCH is holding an open house for families attending the school Friday, Aug. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. While the kids enjoy activities, the parents can meet with teachers.

For more information, call the school at 503-639-5757.