Jefferson Community School welcomes adults in class
Jefferson Community School students (from left) Max Morningstar, Rebecca Stewart, Anchor Jennison, and Adam Braude listen during teacher Geoff Hughes’ public policy class. The school is offering the class along with a Spanish class as an audit option for community members. --Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The private nonprofit school at 280 Quincy St., which serves seventh- through 12th-grade students, had announced its closure in the spring because of low enrollment.
It reopened Sept. 9 with a new head of school and a new mission.
Head of School Rita Hemsley, in addition to attempting to recruit students nationally and internationally, plans to offer certain classes to adults in the local community on an audit basis.
“The school is already infused into the community,” Hemsley said.
“We use the CrossFit gym for PE [physical education], and our science classrooms are the Northwest Maritime Center and the [Port Townsend] Marine Science Center,” she added.
“We will look at this program as a way to draw people in the community into an involvement with the school.”
The Jefferson School will allow auditing adults to participate in two classes, public policy and Spanish, without receiving a grade or credits for class completion.
The process will be more formal than just observing a class: An application and interview process will be required.
“We can’t open this up to just anybody; we’ll need to do a background check,” Hemsley said.
“We also will ask them about their motivation in wanting to audit the class and what they can contribute. We don’t want anyone with a strong ideology they want to get across.”
There is also the cost, which hasn’t been decided.
Courses cost $1,100 each for a semester with credit. An audit fee could be about $500 for an entire course, or people could be offered a daily cost of about $15, Hemsley said.
She got the idea after talking to adult members of the community who expressed admiration for how the school was run.
“I’ve heard from many people how they wish that their high school was like this and that they would like to participate,” she said.
The school, with 20 students currently enrolled, has a $10,300 yearly tuition. Scholarships are available.
The public policy class, taught by new instructor Geoff Hughes, covers a single topic during one semester.
This semester, students are studying a proposed $3 million bond for Port Townsend Library renovations that voters rejected in August and intend to prepare a report that could be presented to the Port Townsend City Council or library board.
“I think that an adult with a knowledge about public policy would make a big contribution to the class,” Hughes said.
“Similarly, they will find that the students here working on this project astounding in their ability to understand the issues and grasp the materials,” he added.
The class now is studying the history of the library initiative through online resources, Hughes said. People who were involved in the process will be invited to speak at a later date.
While Hughes and Hemsley have discussed the audit process for several weeks, the students were not aware of the proposal until Tuesday afternoon.
Some students didn’t like the idea of people dropping in and out.
“Once someone has started, I think they should stick with it,” said Anchor Jennison, 14, a junior.
“This is a team, and if you aren’t going to be on the team, you shouldn’t drop out.”
Hughes said it was common for teams to gain and lose members during a particular task, and accommodating this could provide a learning experience.
Other students said they hoped adults taking classes wouldn’t be telling them what to do.
“I don’t mind the idea of having adults here, but I wouldn’t like it if they came in here and said something like, ‘I’m older and deserve more respect,’” said seventh-grader Max Morningstar, 11.
“That’s not the way it works in school, is it?” Hughes said.
“No,” the kids said in unison.
“They will be in the school, and they’ll play by our rules,” Hughes said. “They’ll be just like students.”
The school is taking applications for those who want to audit the classes, which both meet from 1:20 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
No more than five will be accepted to audit the classes for the semester, which is in progress now and ends the first week of February.
For more information, phone Hemsley at 360-385-0622.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 02. 2013 6:17PM