Alternative Learning

All students can learn!
In the Ellensburg School District, we believe in meeting all students at their level. As part of this belief, we have programs to support students wherever they may be in their educational journey. Students in these programs learn in a different environment and at their own pace while making progress towards graduating with a high school diploma.

Students in our alternative programs come from various backgrounds. Many students have struggled in the standard large high school environment. Our two programs, Excel High School and Personal Learning Center, both offer alternative methods to instruction.

Personal Learning Center (PLC)
PCL is housed in the Methodist Church across the street from the public library. The program is primarily online based with teacher support. In this program, students, parents, and teachers create a Student Learning Plan. This plan guides the learning and the time spent in the classroom. Students in grades 6-12 may attend.

Excel High School
Excel is housed on the campus of Ellensburg High School with it's own entrance and area. The program goes daily and operates on a project based learning schedule. Students from grades 9-12 attend.

At Excel High School, we believe that all students can learn skills that will impact their lives during and after Ellensburg School District. We believe in empowering students to find meaningful learning experiences that enhance their development through structured educational pathways.

Excel is a learning environment built specifically to student learning needs and upholds rigorous academic standards needed for future school and work success.

Alternative Ed Grants

Mental Health Awareness Training (MHAT) Grant from Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
This grant will provide training for staff and community members over the course of three years. The grant will utilize Youth Mental Health First Aid, Question, Persuade, Refer, and Hope Squad to help provide the district staff and community members with a common language to support students in mental health crisis. In addition to the trainings, all students will have the opportunity to go through a screening process to help identify students with mental health needs that have gone unidentified.

As we know, no system is complete without a method to getting students the help they need, so this grant also includes two positions to support finding services for students. There will be a single Referral Coordinator for grades 6-12 to intake referrals and make a team determination of next steps to support the student. There will also be a Project Assistant to support project goals, training scheduling, and meeting schedules.

This grant is for three years and provides $125,000 per year in funding.

Center for Prevention & Wellness Initiative (CPWI) & Washington State Healthcare Authority
This grant is a planning and implementation grant. It continues the work that our "Recovery School" task force started and will focus on community coalition and capacity building. To start, the grant will fund one position to support the community coalition's efforts towards a strategic plan for supporting all learners.

This grant is for two years and provides $100,000 per year in funding. If everything goes as planned, the grant can continue for an additional three years.

Office of System and School Improvement from OSPI
This grant will help support students in our ALE programs. In our Personal Learning Center we currently only have one ESD staff member supporting 36 students, their written student learning plans, and the state requirements for ALE programs. Through this grant we're adding a para-professional to support student needs for 20 hours a week. In addition to staffing, teachers at Excel and PLC will receive some math training support since that is an area in which students are currently struggling.

We're also adding a program to track ALE program requirements in a single location. We're currently using a combination of Google Docs, Google Forms, Microsoft Word and other offline methods to track student documentation.

This grant is for one year and provides $20,000 of funding.

Education Foundation Mini-Grant
We have applied to the Education Foundation for support with making the environment at Excel more inviting for students. Currently, with our split schedule many students leave after their day is done. We'd like students to stay so they may work on school work, make positive choices, and feel more connected to their school. This grant will help support that by helping shift a classroom space into more of a "commons" area for students to hang out.

This grant is for nearly $2,000.

Discovery Lab

Mission Statement
Discovery Lab will create an integrated learning environment where students achieve academic excellence through project-based and exploratory methods. We believe that all children learn and develop in unique ways and our learning environment honors the child’s natural pace. Our students will learn to problem solve, think critically, and communicate effectively. Through the use of community partners and resources, students will learn to be stewards of their environment and engaged citizens in their community.

To accomplish this mission, the Discovery Lab will:
  • Utilize a projects-based, exploratory curriculum. The school will use the local community and environment to teach concepts across all areas of the curriculum, including math, science, language arts, and social studies.
  • Emphasize hands-on, real world approaches to increase purposeful engagement for our students as well as foster their awareness of the environment
  • Teach how to think, not what to think
  • Preserve in students a sense of attachment to their surroundings in order to develop active, productive community citizens who recognize their role and responsibility to themselves, their neighbors, and the world
  • Integrate the Washington State standards to ensure academic excellence
  • Develop partnerships with local and regional resources to build stronger working relationships among educators, parents and other community members

Our Vision
Discovery Lab will serve as a strong support system to children and their families, and will have a positive effect on the surrounding community. As a dynamic and adaptive entity, Discovery Lab will be able to swiftly change to meet the needs of the students and the community as they evolve.

Discovery Lab Students are…
Reflective
Take time to consider and potentially challenge viewpoints

Caring
Show concern for, and actively value, others

Balanced
Set their own priorities and are self-aware

Open-Minded
Willing to consider new ideas

Creative
Come up with new or different ways of doing something

Communicator
Challenge themselves to communicate, listen actively and present new ideas

Inquiring
Are curious to explore new ways of thinking

Informed
Will embrace knowledge and apply it to a wider context

Independent
Capable of thinking or acting for themselves; will take an intellectual risk

Resilient
Ready and willing to learn from all experiences whether or not they are successful

Discovery Lab Curriculum
Discovery Lab engages students using Project Based Learning (PBL) that is approved by the District.

Students enrolled in Discovery Lab will be engaged in Alternative Learning Experiences (ALE) which means each student will have a Written Student Learning Plan (WSLP) and must meet monthly progress. Additional information on ALE programs.

Discovery Lab Lottery
Application is free of eligibility requirements other than student district residency and/or choice transfer. Current student grade level and district residency are verified for each applicant. No other student identifying information is gathered or used for the lottery.

The lottery is conducted centrally using a computer-based random number sequence generating tool. The process is conducted by the Director Innovative and Alternative Education and witnessed in person by no less than two additional district administrators. Each applicant is assigned a random lottery number using the sequence generating tool. Following the lottery, the lists go to Discovery Lab, parents are notified, and Discovery Lab will begin making offers based on the number of spaces available. If students decline placement, the program moves to the next student on the wait list. Students on the wait list do not need to re-apply, they carry their wait list number forward each year.

Eligibility Requirements for the Discovery Lab System
Discovery Lab is open to all students that reside within the Ellensburg School District. Families who do not reside within the District must apply for a choice transfer with Ellensburg School District and be approved.

Children with Siblings in Discovery Lab
Children with siblings in Discovery Lab will retain immediate eligibility and do not need to apply for enrollment in the program. Parents/guardians must register for the program two months prior to start date.

Annual Reapplication if Not Selected in the Lottery
Students who are not selected in the lottery are placed on a wait list that carries over from year to year and should not reapply.

Discovery Lab Lottery Wait List
After Discovery Lab rosters are finalized, Ellensburg School District will establish a waitlist based on the lottery numbers previously assigned. When openings become available, the school will offer placement to the next student on the waitlist. The family will have 24 hours to accept or reject placement. If the family declines placement at the school, the student will be removed from the school’s waitlist.

Wait lists are continually maintained by Ellensburg School District and carry forward each year. Student’s retain their waitlist number. Students will be moved to the next grade level each year and will maintain their lottery placement throughout the duration of the school’s grade offerings unless placement was previously declined.

District Transportation for Discovery Lab
Parents/guardians who choose to attend Discovery Lab must arrange their own transportation unless a student has an IEP accommodation.

Lisa Berthon

Counselor

Jared Bronkema

Excel High School Principal

Savannah Irvin

Special Education & Elective Teacher

Michael Johansen

Counselor

Julia Karns

Migrant Recruiter/Student Support Coordinator, Referral Coordinator

Christina Moorman

Instructor, Special Education

Andrew Ponchene

Instructor, Business Education

Courtney Schrader

Counselor

Jeff Treadwell

Instructor