Jefferson Community School has been a part of the local community since 2005, the yellow schoolhouse standing proudly downtown. Bit by bit, the school has been transitioning online since 2016. The …
Jefferson Community School has been a part of the local community since 2005, the yellow schoolhouse standing proudly downtown. Bit by bit, the school has been transitioning online since 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that.
The school is now closing and the property at 280 Quincy St. in downtown Port Townsend is for sale.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done. It’s just not something we can continue doing,” said Craig Frick, curriculum leader for JCS and developer of the USA360 program.
The USA360 e-campus program was developed completely separately from Jefferson Community School, designed as part of the international program operating out of the school since 2014.
Frick emphasized the unique ability to conduct online schooling without going through a third party.
“I get to control every aspect of it, from student acquisition to graduation,” Frick said.
Jefferson Community School has always had goals of experiential education, teaching students about the place they live. Students worked and learned within the community.
The school also led international expeditions, exploring the world as a class unit.
In recent years, there was a transition to a program based more in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. Frick called these 21st Century skills “absolutely necessary.”
As the school began working internationally, there was a big request for new curriculum, Frick said. International schools wanted to work on a partnership to create English classes and other similar courses not offered in China, where many are based.
This gave birth to the idea of creating an online program to support international partner schools, Frick said.
In the last three years, 120 students graduated from the program, mostly from their homes in China and Taiwan.
The onsite instruction at Jefferson Community School has been and will continue to be separate from USA360 e-campus.
“The choice wasn’t in going online, that’s something we’ve been doing,” Frick said. “The choice is closing the onsite instructional component.”
The shuttering of Jefferson Community School was necessitated by the numbers; the number of students enrolled and the demands of tuition made continued instruction infeasible, Frick explained.
“There was a continual need of significant fundraising to meet our goals,” he said.
The in-person students at Jefferson Community School paid $11,500 in annual tuition, which came out closer to $13,000 each year when the cost of additional expenses was factored into the total.
Conversely, enrollment in the USA360 e-campus curriculum costs $1,200 per semester.
This year, 15 students graduated in-person, and double that number of international students did so online.
As a nonprofit, Frick said the school had a “place in the community in terms of delivering education.”
“We ran an uncompromisingly fantastic program,” Frick said. “Mission accomplished; we have been successful, there is no doubt about that.”
Students leaving Jefferson Community School have been successful at prestigious colleges, Frick said. Perhaps more importantly, last year saw one of the strongest communities within the school, between teachers and students and students to each other.
“There was a real sense of ‘We are here, we’re all together, we’re all friends.’ A real sense of community and love they shared,” Frick said.
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