Puyallup committee crafts new high school

Staff writerMay 20, 2014 

This summer, a committee of Puyallup parents, teachers, students and administrators will be doing some homework.

Their task: to sort through ideas for a new small high school for the district.

Among the possibilities are a school with an arts or science focus — like what Tacoma has done with the School of the Arts and the Science and Math Institute — or a school that offers college credits for high school work.

Another idea circulating would place an International Baccalaureate (IB) or other internationally focused program for 10th through 12th graders at Edgemont Junior High.

Brian Lowney, one of the district’s regional chief academic officers, said the 17-member committee is open to looking at other ideas as well.

The committee, which begins meeting later this month, is scheduled to present a menu of options to the School Board this fall.

Puyallup is the second-largest school district in Pierce County with nearly 21,000 students. It has three comprehensive high schools: Puyallup, Rogers and Emerald Ridge. It also has a small alternative high school, Walker, with about 120 students who have credit deficiencies or who need a more personalized environment.

Students in grades 10 through 12 attend high schools in the Puyallup district, while ninth-graders attend junior high schools.

Lowney said the academic options team, as the summer committee is called, will search for ideas that appeal to families who want a rigorous academic program outside the traditional high school.

“We will be looking at what the options are, around the state and around the world,” Lowney said. “We want to find what fits Puyallup.”

A new small high school could range from 100 to 500 students, he added, depending on the size of available buildings and the popularity of the programs.

It also could provide a relief valve for the district’s anticipated growth. Voters rejected a 2013 bond proposal that would have added space to Puyallup’s overcrowded high schools. Lowney said the district doesn’t foresee voters approving a fourth comprehensive high school anytime soon.

He said the committee will look at ways to serve students outside the big school model.

“Comprehensive high schools are fantastic, and they are also very expensive,” said Lowney, the former principal at Emerald Ridge. “We offer a lot of options within our comprehensive high schools. But we need to offer more choice to families.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com @DebbieCafazzo

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