HomeConnection freshman Michelle Consolver studies her math textbook, while principal Shane Evans looks on, ready to help. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

HomeConnection offering more paths to graduation

Jackson Hadley is like many other students — striving for graduation, driven to learn.

Hadley also has autism. Learning in a traditional classroom is a challenge.

But he is learning through Home-Connection, a partnership with home-schoolers that’s offered through the Oak Harbor School District.

“This family has done everything you could imagine to educate Jackson, including changing schools and changing states to find a school that would meet the needs of their student that has autism — that didn’t work,” said Shane Evans, principal for HomeConnection.

“When they came back, they found HomeConnection,” Evans said. “HomeConnection has been the only thing that has worked, the only place that he is willing to go to school.”

Hadley’s story is a perfect example of how HomeConnection is changing lives, said Evans.

“The typical path wasn’t gonna work for him (Hadley), but he’s very bright.” Evans said. “He’s a very intelligent young man.

“This is a small enough environment, we call it a family … he’s comfortable here, where he hasn’t been comfortable in other places.”

Formerly classified as a parent partnership program, HomeConnection now qualifies as a school in is own right, falling under the educational category of alternate learning experiences, or ALE, Evans said.

“Basically, we partner with families to help educate their kids, in a nutshell,” Evans explained. “Being a parent-partnership school, we have families who are home schooling, who are looking for options for their kids outside of just teaching them at home.

“We provide about 144 different class options for kindergarten through, essentially, 12th grade.”

HomeConnection assists parents with children in kindergarten through fifth grades by providing a learning plan for each child and provides opportunities in those core academic areas of math, social studies and language arts, as well as classes in the arts, P.E. and other options.

As students enter the more advanced grades and classes, HomeConnection offers more and more core academics, which earn them High School credits for graduation.

Most HomeConnection students opt to take college classes through Running Start, which is a program that enables juniors and seniors to take college classes in place of high school courses, fulfilling both simultaneously.

“I don’t have any seniors on campus right now — they are all in Running Start,” Evans said. “I have five juniors that are here one or two periods a day, but the majority of them are doing Running Start.”

Over the past 10 years, 85 percent of HomeConnection students who went to Running Start earned an associate’s degree in the program.

For students who don’t do Running start, HomeConnection offers Internet courses through Fuel Education, and partners with Spokane Public Schools to create Oak Harbor Virtual Learning, which allows students to earn state-required credits ranging from eighth graders to seniors.

“It was six years until we got our first graduate,” Evans said.

“That’s probably more a product of Running Start,” he said. “They were just starting out trying to do high school credit. (HomeConnection) probably had fewer classes than we do now, and Running Start was a viable option for a lot of families that go here.”

HomeConnection has now had six graduates in the past decade, and expects one more in June.

Evans is also principal for Hand-In-Hand, a district-Head Start hybrid program that enrolls students with financial needs through Head Start and students with learning challenges through the district.

Hand-in-Hand shares a building with HomeConnection — the old Clover Valley Elementary School. There are 200 preschoolers in the building, 149 kindergarten-through-fifth graders and 108 sixth-to-12th graders, including Running Start students.

Kids would not have as many opportunities if it wasn’t for both of these programs.”

“The way we generate money and funds and use of the facility is through the students that come, just like every other school — full-time equivalency is how we pay the bills,” Evans said.

“Clover Valley is busy.”

HomeConnection principal Shane Evans, left, interacts with freshman Michelle Consolver in the lounge area of the school’s library. Due to the program at HomeConnection, Consolver aspires to earn enough credits to begin the Running Start program early. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

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