New charter school on the horizon for Moscow

By Kate Baldwin Daily News staff writer
Published: 05-10-2006
Education choices are about to grow by one with a new charter school’s arrival in Moscow. Organizers behind the Palouse Prairie Charter School are inviting the public to find out more at a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Great Room of the 1912 Center.The school is set to open in August 2007, eventually expanding through eighth grade. The school first will enroll roughly 75 students and grow to 150. In the beginning, the grades will be combined as first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth.

The school, which will serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade, will use an Expeditionary Learning–Outward Bound model. Bill Rivers, chairman of the school’s board, describes the approach as focused on project-based learning, where students plunge in-depth into single topics they choose.

“It’s very different from the traditional teacher in front of the classroom telling the answers to the kids that they memorize,” he said.

The effort to bring the school to Moscow began about two years ago, Rivers said. There now are about 15 core families involved.

Local parent Olle Pellmyr has a son, Bjorn, who will be entering public school this fall. He hopes to have him transfer to the charter school when it opens. Pellmyr said he found out about the project in the typical Palouse way.

“I was talking to one of my colleagues at (Washington State University) about teaching models, and he said there was a group putting this together in town,” he said.

Pellmyr and his wife began attending meetings a few weeks ago.

“When a school first starts up people are naturally hesitant,” he said. “You, in a sense, have to take a leap of faith that it will actually work.”

He said the organizers have tremendous knowledge of the task at hand. “These are people that are coming from all walks of education.”

The model was developed in 1993 and is used at more than 140 schools across the country, including Spokane and Boise.

Charter schools are public schools that have to hold enrollment lotteries, though there often is a misconception that students are hand-picked.

“The first few years are when you have a very good chance of getting in,” he said. “Why not tailor the schools to the kids, rather than the kids to the schools?” Pellmyr said. “If we can have that without sacrificing the rigorousness of the academic programs, I thinks that’s perfect.”

For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.palouseprairieschool.org.

Kate Baldwin can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 239, or by e-mail at kbaldwin@dnews.com.

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