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Local charters celebrate National School Choice Week

Sauvie Island Academy, South Columbia Family School promote options in education

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - Lewis & Clark College professor Greg Smith explains the concept of 'place-based education' to guests at a breakfast in the Sauvie Island Academy cafeteria on Friday, Jan. 30. Smith was the keynote speaker at 'Savoring Sauvie,' the last event in the charter school's observance of National School Choice Week 2015.Charter schools in the Scappoose area participated in National School Choice Week for the first time last week, holding community events to highlight their distinct education models and spread the word about what they are doing.

National School Choice Week is a nationwide campaign by supporters of alternatives to conventional public education. For them, “school choice” is about ensuring that families have easy access to options like private and faith-based schooling, homeschooling, alternative school programs, language immersion programs, online and virtual learning, credit recovery programs, magnet academies, and — of course — charter schools.

Oregon allows charter schools to operate with the sponsorship of a school district. The Scappoose School District has two affiliated charter schools: Sauvie Island Academy and South Columbia Family School, both of which serve kindergarten through eighth grade.

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - Darla Meeuwsen (left), director of Sauvie Island Academy, tells visitor Dan Frakes (right) about a model map of Sauvie Island put together by first-grade students at the charter school during a community breakfast Friday, Jan. 30.At Sauvie Island Academy, the last week of January was essentially "spirit week," said Director Darla Meeuwsen. Students wore their school colors, classes competed in a canned food drive, and the school hosted a couple of community events.

On Friday morning, Jan. 30, guests — including parents, teachers, school board members and others — were treated to a breakfast prepared by school Chef Loretta Hollingsworth. As they dug into biscuits and gravy, quiche, and parfaits, an education professor at Lewis & Clark College, Greg Smith, gave a keynote address on the benefits of “place-based education,” which is at the center of Sauvie Island Academy’s philosophy.

“Sauvie Island is, I think, really becoming one of many schools across the state of Oregon, and actually nationally, that are beginning to kind of move in this direction — to essentially create an opportunity for kids to learn using local experiences, local skills, local knowledge, as just part of what they actually encounter in their classrooms,” Smith said.

South Columbia Family School, meanwhile, blends classroom learning and homeschooling, with students coming to the school itself only on a part-time basis. Class sizes are small, and parents take an active role in their child’s education.

On Thursday evening, Jan. 29, the school borrowed the gymnasium of nearby Warren Elementary School for a math and science fair to show off what students had learned and projects they have been working on.

Student projects were also on display at Sauvie Island Academy.

Meeuwsen said the value of National School Choice Week is to highlight options in education.

“You have all of these avenues that provide choice, and I think sometimes people in our communities and parents don’t always realize that,” Meeuwsen said. “Parents know their kids best, and they know how they learn best.”

Lori Bogen, principal at South Columbia Family School, voiced a similar sentiment.

“I see where kids need different things,” said Bogen, noting her experience at charter and alternative schools. “And so I just think school choice is very, very important.”