First a new site; now Westside School expands to add middle school

Big announcement from Westside School (WSB sponsor) today – as they had hoped would be possible once they moved into the former EC Hughes site in Sunrise Heights (here’s our coverage of the dedication 2 months ago), they’re expanding to add middle-school grades. It’ll be an incremental expansion – Westside will add 6th grade in fall 2011, then 7th grade in fall 2012, and as of fall 2013 will be fully preschool through 8th grade. The school says it’ll be organizing Middle School as a unique “rigorous, high-school-preparatory curriculum,” not just adding classes; we’re scheduled to talk with Head of School Jo Ann Yockey momentarily to find out more, and will add to this report later.

ADDED 2:11 PM: More details, as promised! For starters, there’ll be there is now a new section on the Westside website with middle-school details. As for what we learned in a conversation with Jo Ann Yockey, read on:

Almost exactly two months after the ribbon-cutting for Westside’s new building, Yockey (left, with a student-painted artwork that is displayed prominently in her office) says she’s still jazzed about the “energetic, upbeat” atmosphere created by the move.

But now – expansion brings new logistics. You might already have seen the city permit sign: Westside wants to bring over the modulars it installed on its old site a few blocks south of Roxbury, just outside the city limits. They would be installed on part of the expansive parking-lot space south of the main Westside building. Some middle-school classes would be in those modulars, as would some of the “early school,” while some would be in the main building.

The school website is being updated right now, and should have Middle School information shortly, including a graphic, Yockey said, of the new layout, which is scheduled to be in place this fall, though they will be phasing in the new grades.

There will be room for new students in the new sixth grade, according to Yockey, because they’re expecting to have two classes – and this year, the current Westside 5th graders are in just one class (though there are two classes of fourth-graders).

Right now, Explorer West Middle School and West Seattle Montessori School (also WSB sponsors) offer the only secular middle-school classes in the area, and Yockey said Westside’s expansion is “all about choice.” They will offer instruction in Mandarin and Spanish languages for the new upper grades, too.

But one unique point will be the organization of the Westside Middle School as fifth through eighth grades, rather than sixth through eighth. Yockey says fifth-graders are “so ready to learn” that it makes sense to include them; she adds, that’s how it worked at the school she led previously in Charlotte, North Carolina, and says that’s how it’s organized at other area independent schools including Lakeside, Overlake, and Seattle Girls’ School. It means fifth-graders will also be able to choose electives, and participate in sports and music, along with the newly added grades.

Why not just add sixth through eighth grades all at once next school year? we asked. According to Yockey, it might have been too much too fast to bring in that many new families and teachers: “We didn’t think that was the best model to keep the mission secure.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about Westside’s expansion, they’ll have an open house on December 6th, as well as “some other opportunities to talk,” and will accept applications for new students through January 21st.

4:11 PM: Westside tells us the website is back up and running now – so you can follow the links to info about the new middle-school plan.

10 Replies to "First a new site; now Westside School expands to add middle school"

  • bwilson November 8, 2010 (11:10 am)

    Great news for West Seattle! Thanks Westside. We are so fortunate to have such a terrific school in our neighborhood.

  • Anonymous1 November 8, 2010 (1:00 pm)

    This school is terrible. 100% NOT WORTH the money I spent. I’m terribly sorry to see three more grades added to this place. If you, your family and child don’t “fit” the cookie-cutter mold THEY have in mind —- you’re out of luck. And the Head of School, Jo Ann …. awful.

  • Krystal November 8, 2010 (1:56 pm)

    Echoing bwilson’s comments, it’s great to have Westside in the neighborhood!

  • blondie November 8, 2010 (4:00 pm)

    Congratulations to a great community school!

  • Noelle November 8, 2010 (4:05 pm)

    Congrats Westside! Is Westside the 1st no Religious affiliation private Middle school in West Seattle?

    • WSB November 8, 2010 (4:07 pm)

      I mentioned in the story that Explorer West and West Seattle Montessori also are secular private schools … both currently run through 8th grade.

  • WSMom November 8, 2010 (6:38 pm)

    I hope there new addition encompasses more diversity!!!

  • WSDad November 9, 2010 (12:13 pm)

    What sort of diversity are you hoping for?
    As a Westsider’s parent, I would appreciate your specific input.
    WestSide Dad

  • tanyar23 November 12, 2010 (10:15 pm)

    Hello WS Dad,
    When we went and did a tour there a couple of years ago, it was very obvious there were not many kids of color. I would not feel comfortable putting my child of color in a school where there was very little diversity. We choose to take her to an independent school in the central district where the diversity adds to the richness of the community.
    I think the school has a lot of potential to improve in this area.

  • WSParent November 17, 2010 (5:56 am)

    Westside has demonstrated in so many ways how inclusive their community is, espcially in the last few years since we have been a part of the community. Diversity at this school is much more of a value, not a policy. The Anonymous post on 11/8 is disconcerting. The leadership and faculty at Westside do a tremendous job and their behavior and performance aligns well with the school’s values.

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