Community School of West Seattle plans new focus, while 2 teachers plan new K-5

Two big headlines in the news shared by Community School of West Seattle founder/director Sarah Airhart: Starting in fall of next year – not this fall – her school will focus on what it considers its sweet spot. And two of its teachers, Terry Garrido and Michelle Taylor (shown above with Sarah at center) are venturing out to form a new independent school. Here’s how Sarah tells the story:

The Community School of West Seattle (CSWS) has been working on creating its Strategic Plan for the next 3 years.

CSWS currently has 3 preschool classrooms for 3 to 5 year olds and 1 classroom for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade.

The preschool program has grown over the years and most recently participated in the WA State pilot study of the new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). CSWS was instrumental in getting the language of an emergent and project approach curriculum imbedded as an ‘approved’ curriculum model.

And during the pilot process we received some of the highest ratings in the country on the CLASS assessment. The CLASS looks at what we believe is one of the most critical components of any program – teacher/child interaction. The WA State Department of Early Learning (DEL) recently received $60 million to implement the QRIS (now called Early Achievers) across the State and CSWS is among the first programs to participate. You can read all about Early Achievers and the Race to the Top grant here.

(We) have also been recognized by DEL as an Early Achievers Peer Mentor. This opportunity is offered to only 14 programs in King County who served in the pilot study. The Peer Mentor’s role is to provide advice and support to other Early learning programs who choose to go through the rating process.

Part of the Strategic Planning process was to really look at our strengths and passions.

What are we known for in the community and how can we serve the most amount of families and children and bring our mission to the forefront of our work?

‘The Community School of West Seattle provides and promotes a comprehensive and balanced approach to Early Learning built on a foundation of mutual respect.’

For several years now, there have been murmurings of CSWS expanding our current Kindergarten thru 2nd grade program to a K-5. Going through the Strategic Planning process has answered that question for us. While we want to see this work and educational model in the world (especially in West Seattle), it just isn’t the work that helps us live our Mission. So beginning in September 2013, CSWS will no longer provide K-2 and will focus exclusively on Pre-School for 3- and 4-year-olds.

This will open up a 4th pre-school classroom and serve up to 30 more families in the community.

We are very excited about this step forward. Enrollment will begin in January for children who are 3 by August 31st, 2013, for the September 2013 start date.

When we say that we want to see this kind of work – a K-5 that offers a project and emergent curriculum – we really mean it! So we are excited to announce that our current K-2 teachers are opening A NEW INDEPENDENT K-5 SCHOOL IN WEST SEATTLE.

Michelle Taylor, MS Ed., has been with CSWS for 8 years. She is really the founder of the K-2 program and developed it when so many of her pre-school families wanted to stay. After 5 years of K-2, she is ready to take the next step and literally pick up what she has created here and gently place it in its own location and run it as a K-5.

Terry Garrido, MA Ed., has been with CSWS for just 1 year, but in that 1 year has made such an incredible impact on the organization of the program. He and Michelle have a dynamic that sets this program apart from any other. They balance each other so well and share the commitment to small and intentional learning environments for children.

TapRoot, a K-5 School, will be opening in September 2013, independently of CSWS. Registration will start in November 2012. Between now and then, they will be having bi-monthly meetings with the community to connect and talk about what they are creating. And you can come to CSWS to see them in action and check out their work.

You can also visit their current blog for a detailed look at an emergent and project-based curriculum happening now in the K-2 @ CSWS.

We couldn’t be more proud to support 2 such dedicated and talented teachers. We look forward to seeing this school emerge from the love and beauty from which it has being created. It feels like the best next step for all of us and for the community.

To contact the TapRoot school, please e-mail or

P.S. As announced in the WSB Forums, CSWS has a big fundraising yard sale this weekend.

6 Replies to "Community School of West Seattle plans new focus, while 2 teachers plan new K-5"

  • Manuela Slye July 27, 2012 (9:48 pm)

    This is wonderful! Sarah, you are an inspiration to early childhood educators, me included.
    Good luck!

  • Michelle Taylor July 28, 2012 (10:12 am)

    Thank you Sarah and the West Seattle Blog. Just a slight correction: My email is printed incorrectly. It is: Some emails have been coming in already and I don’t want to miss out on them. Can’t wait to see you all at Taproot School!

    Michelle Taylor

    • WSB July 28, 2012 (10:24 am)

      No worries, Gmail addresses are not case-sensitive – whether all lower, all upper, or any combination thereof. – TR

  • Kristin July 28, 2012 (2:52 pm)

    Yay Taproot! This school sounds SO exciting and I can’t wait to see it grow. We are huge fans of Community School and love the great work they do there everyday.

    WSB, I think Michelle meant that the email address you posted in the article had only one “l”, and needs two.

    • WSB July 28, 2012 (3:18 pm)

      I really REALLY really need new glasses. Will get right to work on that on Monday. Fixed. – TR

  • Sarah July 28, 2012 (7:45 pm)

    I am always so grateful for the love and support-thank you xxx I am really excited that CSWS will be in a position to do even more for the Early Learning community in the near future. And I could not be more proud of our K-2 team. I know what a big step it is and I am there to support them all the way!
    What an exciting time for West Seattle-we have needed more options for several years and now we will have them.

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