Cool New Schools

Maritime School

Despite the pandemic, some really cool new high schools opened this fall–and the Getting Smart team advised many of them. Below are nine examples, the first four are new options that build on place-based opportunities. The next five are school-within-a-school models launched to accelerate real world learning.

Maritime High is a new small school south of Seattle. Learning will focus on the environment, marine science, and maritime careers working on or near the water. Maritime is a collaborative project of Highline Public Schools, Northwest Maritime Center, Port of Seattle, and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition along with many community and industry partners. Students will supplement classroom learning with field experiences, boat-based learning, and internships.  Fall enrollment is 35 students while in a temporary facility. Like other Highline schools, every Maritime student will be known by name, strength and need, and will graduate prepared for the future they choose.

Highline has a great track record with place-based career academies having opened Aviation High School at King County Airport and Waskowitz Environmental Leadership and Service (WELS) at an outdoor education camp in North Bend, Washington.

Cajon Valley USD in East San Diego County opened its first high school by adding 9th grade to Bostonia, a TK-8 dual language academy. Bostonia Global will extend through high school with early college potential for earning an associate’s degree. The model, which will have 125 freshman and 60 sophomores, is “designed to develop the unique strengths, interests, and values of each student on their pathway to gainful employment.” Keith Nuthall, who led this exciting development, designed two of our other favorite schools Odyssey STEM (see feature) and Del Lago Academy.

Portal Schools opened its first business-based microschool in Los Angeles at electronic equipment manufacturer Belkin on August 16. The class of 35 students (from 23 zip codes) will earn high school and college credit with a hybrid schedule that includes work-based learning. Portal will open additional sites in LA tech business locations and begin expanding nationwide next year (see feature).

Pinnacles Prep, a grade 6-12 school in Wenatchee, Washington, takes a personalized approach with hands-on projects using the community as their classroom. The focus is “making learning relevant, enabling students to think critically, build relationships, and navigate systems to make positive contributions to our world.” It’s part of the Place Network sponsored by Teton Science School.

Accelerating Real World Learning

In addition to exciting new options like Maritime, Portal and Pinnacle, teacher teams in the Kansas City area are using new microschools to embed more real world learning into learning pathways and show the rest of the city what the future looks like.

Empowering Discovery of the Global Experience (EDGE) is a globally focused microschool that opened inside​​ Liberty High School north of Kansas City. After a few school visits in 2019, it started on a Google doc with a mission, vision, core values and nine signature features. EDGE serves about 115 students (see feature).

Raymore-Peculiar Enterprise & Design is a result of embedding client-connected projects into required English 4 classes. Seeing the success of authentic learning experiences, the microschool was created to provide more focus and access. Ray-Pec Enterprise & Design serves 60 students with plans to double enrollment next year.

Creating Opportunities for Ruskin Eagles (C.O.R.E.) is a microschool that started with a visit to Purdue Polytechnic High School and is focused on changing the learning experience for students. Located across the street from Ruskin High in the Hickman Mills School District, juniors and seniors engage in real world challenges with strong community collaboration. Students choose what impact they want to have and work with mentors to determine goals and craft solutions.

Ray-Pec Enterprise & Design “exists to assist students in developing their agency, efficacy, and passions while gaining valuable real-world and academic skills so they can succeed in a world of rapid and constant change.” It’s a half-day integrated studies program in the Raymore-Peculiar School District on the south side of Kansas City. Serving 50-60 students this year, it will double in size next year when it moves to a new facility. Students will do about four real world projects over the course of the year

In North Kansas City Schools, efforts are underway to support microschools at the elementary and middle school level. Maple Park Middle School, started this year with a group of 90 multi-age learners, four teachers, using two rooms. Principal, Brian Van Batavia, shared the start of the year will have an increased focus on team building and supporting positive relationships. North Kansas City Schools has a high commitment to real world learning, with career academy options for their high school students in every high school. They have leaned into their graduate profile by developing progressions for K-12 and have a strong focus on design thinking to make the vision a reality.

Consider Alternatives

The pandemic stretched our conception of school–what learning looks like and where it takes place. The crisis built demand for alternative settings–for safety, for personalization, for engagement and for learner agency.

The pandemic also accelerated skills-based hiring and a focus on social and emotional learning. For some school systems, these shifts resulted in updated learning goals–another reason to consider new experiences and environments.

It’s a great time to revisit “off-campus” learning — internships, remote locations, community assets, or collaborative pods that leverage virtual capabilities.

Check out our microschool microsite for more stories of how small spaces can lead to big impact.

For more, see:

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment


These schools are giving their students something that goes beyond the standard curriculum. The students are learning valuable lessons that will impact them going forward. I believe as a nation we need to think outside of the walls of traditional classrooms to empower students and challenge them.

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