Olympia School District to expand offerings, support for gifted students

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 7, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Hear an overview of the district’s gifted programs, as well as the expected changes to the elementary school Program for Academically Talented Students, at a forum hosted by the Olympia School District.

    When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

    Where: The Olympia School District’s Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia.

    Information: 360-596-6104 or osd.wednet.edu.

The Olympia School District’s Program for Academically Talented Students (PATS) is being phased out during the next few years. But it’s part of a plan that will increase the district’s support and opportunities for highly capable students, according to district spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet.

Officials will give an overview of all of the district’s gifted programs as well as the expected changes for PATS during a 6:30 p.m. forum Thursday at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia.

The meeting is designed for families of elementary school age students, but anyone is welcome to attend, according to PATS coordinator Jen Flo.

Last spring, the Legislature passed regulations that require all school districts in the state to provide highly capable programs and services for students in grades kindergarten through 12. Before that, programs were optional for districts, Flo said.

There’s also been a shift on how those services will work. 

“It’s less about creating a program, and more about creating a service for individual students,” Flo said. “...It’s about reaching out and supporting those students.”

Olympia School District hired a facilitator to lead a task force on its services and programs, she said.

Officials also hired an outside expert to review the programs and held focus groups with parents, students and community members.

“It was part of a really in depth review,” Japhet said.

In March, the Olympia School Board approved a proposal to update the district’s offerings so they fall in line with the state law.

One of the biggest changes will be phasing out PATS by 2017.

Right now, the program serves students in grades 2 through 5 with an all-day class once a week at McLane Elementary School.

“It’s been around for about 20 years,” Flo said.

PATS will switch to grades 3-5 next year, and grades 4-5 in 2015-16. During the 2016-17 school year, students who were in PATS the year prior will finish out the program.

Meantime, elementary schools throughout the district will offer more services for their highly capable students, and during the next few years officials plan to create full-time programs for fourth-and fifth-graders who qualify as “most highly capable.”

Fewer changes are expected for the gifted programs that serve older students, Flo said.

A science, math and engineering program, known as JAMS, will continue at Jefferson Middle School.

“There’s discussion around examining a humanities tract,” Flo said.

At the high school level, students in the district will continue to have a variety of choices, including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and the Running Start programs, she said. 

PATS parent Lisa Herrick said she thinks the district has done a good job making sure its programs align with changes in the law. 

“They took that as an opportunity to look at how to improve the PATS program in the long term, and the opportunity to serve more students,” she said. “...In the long term, it’s going to serve (highly capable students) better in location and intellectual potential.”  

Nominate a student

The Olympia School District is seeking nominations for its elementary school highly capable programs for the 2014-15 school year.

“We’re really looking to reach the students who have been underserved,” said Jen Flo, coordinator of the Program for Academically Talented Students (PATS). “Anyone in the community can nominate a student, who they feel is highly capable. It can be their scout leader, a Sunday school teacher, the neighbor next door. Anybody can nominate a student.”

Nominations are due by noon on May 12. For more information, go to www.osd.wednet.edu

 

If you go

What: Hear an overview of the district’s gifted programs as well as the expected changes to the elementary school Program for Academically Talented Students.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Olympia School District’s Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia.

 

Information: 360-596-6104 or www.osd.wednet.edu

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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