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Major facelift planned for Collins High

Change is coming to Collins High School.

“We’re recommending a model that will be drastically different than the current model,” White River School District Superintendent Tom Lockyer told the White River School Board at its April 8 meeting, where Janice Watson, deputy superintendent for the Puget Sound Educational Service District, was presenting the Collins programs task force’s recommendations.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but we think the model is powerful,” Watson said.

Philosophically, they said, the model would be great for all kids.

Collins Alternative Programs are a cooperative that includes the White River, Enumclaw, Orting and Sumner school districts. The programs include the flagship Collins High School, an alternative to a comprehensive high school serving approximately 160 students; Collins Junior High, an alternative junior high which serves approximately 35 students; Choice, a parent-partnership program for students in grades 4 through 12; the Collins Extension Center, an alternative learning environment that offers individual pacing and is often a transition placement for students awaiting admittance to Collins High; and an online learning component, a Web-based computer program which combines technology with traditional learning activities.

Watson facilitated the 18-member task force, which was interested in evaluating and revamping the program, which began in the early 1990s, to better serve students.

The task force included each of the four districts’ superintendents and a number of other leaders from each district.

After more than a year’s research and analysis, the task force report was released Feb. 25. Originally slated for discussion before the White River School Board in February, the presentation was postponed to April 8 so more task force members and Watson could be present to answer questions.

One of the biggest changes for Collins High will be its move from a referral program to a choice program, and how those students will be enrolled and their progress monitored.

Recommendations also suggest broader, deeper course offerings that would include more real-world learning opportunities. Part of this plan would include opening all four high schools to students, along with college offerings like Running Start, as options.

One of the highest priorities is the facility. The current Collins High facility is in a Buckley neighborhood on the outskirts of town. The home’s interior has been coverted to classrooms. It does not provide access to dependable, functioning technology and a high-quality lab, both very important to an alternative program. The facility, which also includes buildings at Rainier School in Buckley and in downtown Buckley, do not provide the opportunity for professional learning communities for teachers to develop and also keeps students separated.

Also on the list, the task force recommends the districts revive and reinvigorate the Collins Advisory Committee that existed in the first years of the program, but has since waned, to continually evaluate and revise the programs to meet student needs.

Two things Collins High offers that Sumner Superintendent Gil Mendoza said he and his fellow superintendents will be working on in their districts is the flexibility and personalization Collins offers. He referred to it as “ownership” of students who are not finding the comprehensive high school a good fit and working with them to make it better so they will stay at their home high school.

This concept was especially important at the middle school level. The districts plan to gradually phase out Collins Junior High.

The main focus was on the Collins junior and high schools, its Choice, distance learning and on-line programs run very well, Watson noted.

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