Principles guide work on schools

STANWOOD – A new and improved Stanwood High School will put relationships at the center, with a building that’s adaptable and groups students in small learning communities.

School board members at their meeting Tuesday approved those “guiding principles” and others, which will serve as a filter and focus for the rest of the district’s work to redesign its middle and high school programs.

It’s only a preview of what’s to come. And a bond issue to modernize or rebuild the high school still is a year away.

The Stanwood-Camano School District recently set guiding principles to serve as a filter and focus as it redesigns its secondary school programs:

* Relationships at the center

* Student-centered instruction

* Relevant and rigorous curriculum

* Ongoing assessment

* Technology integrated in every content area

* Collaborative planning and professional development

* Flexible facility

* Parent and community engagement

But leaders are excited at the progress, brought by a 35-member committee whose work has spanned from Mukilteo to San Diego, Calif., over the last five months.

“I’m just rocked back by all the effort,” board member Ken Christoferson said. “We look forward to taking this to the next level.”

The 1,680-student Stanwood High School is in need of improvement, with space running out and a campus that is more sprawling than safe.

Superintendent Jean Shumate said the district wanted to look first at its secondary programs before coming up with a new school-building design.

The district has spent roughly $66,000 on its study, including site visits, research materials, conferences and a consultant.

Visits to 10 schools in the Puget Sound area have underscored the Stanwood district’s desire for smaller learning communities, which group up to 400 students with the same teachers for core classes.

Other preliminary program and facility recommendations from the redesign committee include:

* Comprehensive guidance program including advisors, student-led conferences and career planning.

* Instruction based on individual student strengths and needs.

* Technology integrated into all content areas.

* Adaptable spaces that include such things as conference rooms, niches and nooks for small-group work and removable walls between classrooms.

* More use of natural light.

* Administration and counseling offices spread throughout the building.

* Closed, “self-sufficient” campus.

The district now plans to organize focus groups and meetings with the community about their ideas. A separate facilities committee will work with an architect to prepare for the bond issue.

“It’s going to be an ongoing process. It’s not going to happen overnight,” board member Sharon Baumgartner said. But “already I’m sensing there’s this excitement, that we really do want to be the best.”

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