by George J Elbaum
Kent Mountain View Academy (KMVA) is a grade 3-12 public school in SeaTac, 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 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.
This was my third visit to KMVA, the previous being in 2012 and 2015, and on each of those visits I received a truly heart-warming welcome, so now my expectations were high. This time, however, the welcome was beyond my expectations, starting with a Reserved sign and my name on a parking place, several students at school’s entrance holding a large WELCOME sign and flowers, plus Annelise, a student who baked and greeted me with lemon bars on previous visits holding a large container-full (I ate one immediately!), a student escort to a conference room for a quick pre-talk tea, and most heart-warming: meeting students such as Annelise, Jason and Dylan, now a head or two taller than they were at our first meeting 5 years ago.
My visit was superbly organized by Pat Gallagher, KMVA’s Instructional Facilitator, and I especially appreciated his personal greeting. The audience of approximately 120 included students from grades 7 thru 12, and teachers Josh Murphy, Amanda Greear, Nora Douglass, Patricia Billet, Kristy Banks, Phil Jerde and Matt Johnson, and Pat Gallagher. My participation was arranged by Julia Thompson of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.