Jefferson Community School in Port Townsend to enroll international students
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Jefferson Community School office manager Chelsea Jones, left, and Head of School Rita Hemsley go over an international studentís folder in preparation for accepting foreign students this fall. ó Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson Community School will recruit foreign students for the next school year after a successful vetting by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The Port Townsend private school received permission April 17 to enroll non-immigrant students, clearing the path to becoming an international school.

“I’m thrilled,” said Rita Hemsley, who took over as head of school last year with the purpose of drawing students from outside the region and overseas.

“It really lives our mission and lets us walk the talk in developing kinship with the world.”

The school, located in a historical building known as Good Templars Hall at 280 Quincy St., opened in 2005 as an alternative-education option for grades 6-12 and sponsored annual student expeditions to such places as Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand.

Bringing foreign students to Port Townsend is a continuation of that process, Hemsley said.

“We have gone all over the world and made contacts, so we are using that to bring students here,” she said.

“We have developed a kinship with the world, so the next step is to bring international students into our classroom.”

While the school will use its own contacts and could eventually employ advertising to recruit international students, it will begin by using referral firms that solicit student applications and place the students in appropriate locations.

The school now has information about four students: one from Egypt, two from Kurdistan and one from Indonesia, Hemsley said.

A basic ability to speak and write English will be required; the school does not have the resources to teach English as a second language.

The school is projecting 30 students for the 2014-15 school year, with a maximum of five or six from other countries, Hemsley said.

“I want us to have a healthy mix of kids from different countries and with different backgrounds,” she said.

This year, the school’s annual expedition was a trip to Utah.

The students will give a presentation about the trip from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday in the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend.

The presentation will include pictures and video taken on the trip along with songs written by the students and excerpts from their journals.

The event is free and open to the public.

The school’s annual International Gala will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. May 2 at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St., Port Townsend.

It will include a selection of food and wine along with both silent and live auctions. The gala is the school’s major fundraiser.

Tickets are $75. They can be purchased online at the school’s website at

The school also plans an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 7.

Tuition for the 2014-15 school year will be $10,800. The school also charges a $500 supply fee.

Families can apply for financial aid.

Expedition costs are additional and are estimated at $2,000. Financial aid is not available for expeditions, but student fundraising efforts go toward ensuring that all students can participate, the school says on its website.

For more information, visit the website or phone 360-385-0622.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: April 23. 2014 6:37PM
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