by George J Elbaum
Kent Mountain View Academy (KMVA) is a grade 3-12 public school in Des Moines, WA, about 30 mi. south of Seattle. Designated as one of Washington’s Innovative Schools in each of the past several years, KMVA is small – it has the smallest campus by far of the 40 schools in Kent School District, which dictates that its peak enrollment will never be more than 400 students. Yet KMVA is the only site in its District able to facilitate the needs of elementary through senior high students, and it does so by its efforts to be a community partnership including students, families, and the District to provide educational options and flexibility in a stimulating environment to produce academic achievement. Because of its small size KMVA is better able to keep students from falling through the cracks, and it allows the teachers to work with them over a course of multiple of years.
KMVA is unusual in several aspects: students attend it by choice rather than by geographical location, many have been home schooled prior to KMVA, and the school maintains a strong focus on family and community. For example, it groups 3rd-6th graders together and 7th-12th graders together so that students can maintain contact with their siblings, and 3rd-6th graders are grouped in multi-age home rooms where the first and last parts of each day are spent so that siblings start and end each school day together. There is also special education on a limited scale and these students can be integrated into regular classes as ability allows. A feeling of community/small family among the staff is clearly evident and surely benefits the educational environment for both regular and special students. This is especially attractive to families who have previously home schooled and are interested in accessing public education, families who want all of their children on one campus, students who are looking for a small environment where they remain with a core group of teachers over a period of years, and students interested in a highly academic environment.
I had visited KMVA three years ago (November 7, 2012), received a heart-warming welcome, spoke at that time to the 6th grade class, and I looked forward to returning. What made my visit this time especially interesting and gratifying was that the 6th graders of three years ago were now 9th graders, that Annalise who baked and greeted me with her lemon bars both times and Michael who greeted me with heartfelt posters both times were both taller than I, and that Jason organized and produced a video on the Holocaust that put a lump in my throat. My visit this time was organized by Pat Gallagher, KMVA’s Instructional Facilitator, and it was arranged by Amanda Davis of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.