Distance learning continues at South Columbia Family School
The Scappoose School District is made up of many moving parts, and while news stories may often focus on larger schools in the district, South Columbia Family School serves an important role in the county.
It's a public K-8 charter school, sponsored by the Scappoose School District, that specializes in assisting parents who are homeschooling their children.
The school's enrollment is currently 65. It usually serves between 60 and 70 students. The school limits the size due to the type of programming the school has. A typical class size ranges from 12 to 18 students.
South Columbia Family School serves students from Scappoose, St. Helens, Columbia City and Rainier, although students have come from as far away as Beaverton and Portland.
As part of its arrangement with the Scappoose School District, the charter school is required to give annual reports to the school board, which it did most recently Monday, Sept. 13. Principal Ray Brown delivered the school's annual report to board members and residents who tuned in via Zoom.
Brown said the Family School has done relatively well during the pandemic.
"Like many schools, the past year was a challenge for us, but not as much of a challenge as it was for some of the other schools, because our parents are used to working with their kids at home," Brown said. "Therefore, when we had to do any transition to distance learning, it almost was a natural process for our families to be able to do."
Brown continued, "We were able to continue with the instruction, and also the guidelines, even if we were not meeting in person. I have a wonderful staff and they were able to work with the students both on an individual and a group basis."
The charter school provides curriculum, teachers and general guidance to assist parents with homeschooling.
Brown said students at the Warren-area school are on campus only one day per week. Another hour is set aside for tutoring, testing and conferencing with individual teachers.
"We are unique, but not that unique in the state, because there are various other schools that follow this process," Brown said.
In coping with the challenges of COVID-19 over the past year and a half, Brown said, "It's easier for us to do because we're a much smaller school."
Enrollment at South Columbia Family School has stayed steady for the past three years, according to Brown.
"This year, it's going to be a very fluid year, I think, with students coming and going," Brown said. "Many of our students, especially at the seventh- and eighth-grade level, they've been with us since kindergarten. We're not seeing as much movement as some schools are, but we do expect some to occur."
Charter schools operate differently than neighborhood schools. Among other matters, charter schools are responsible for their own financial planning and budgeting.
Brown reported positive news regarding the Family School's budget.
"Our school's budget is very strong," he said. "We have a little over a half million dollars in our yearly budget. Right now, we do have a savings account of $206,000 which we constitute as our rainy-day fund. We are trying not to touch that unless we have an emergency."
Brown said, "In terms of the budget, we were able to have a successful summer school with the summer grant. During that time period, 60 percent of our students attended our summer school, so we're very pleased with that."
After the presentation, board member Michelle Graham thanked Brown for his annual report.
"I'm just so delighted that we still have this kind of option in our school district for families to get this kind of support that want to homeschool their children," Graham said.
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