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Wigton: Shared schooling and the many ways to educate a child

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Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018 12:47 AM
Becky Wigton

“What is shared school?”

This is the question that I am asked most often when parents learn about Durango School District 9-R’s Shared School Program.

As the name implies, participating students share their time between home and school. The program began as, and continues to be, a support for home school families. It is one of the options from which parents can choose to educate their children within the district.

At the elementary level, the program started very informally about 20 years ago at Needham Elementary under former principal Pete Harter.

Mr. Harter was asked by a group of home school families in the Needham district if their children could participate in an art and music class, to which Mr. Harter agreed.

As those initial children participated in and enjoyed their time in public school, more families became interested. As interest grew, Mr. Harter and the district worked together to create a formal program, which still exists today.

The program is located in the lower level of Miller Middle School and is available to kindergarten through fifth grade students. Participating families have chosen to teach the academic courses at home and attend public school for such classes as art, music, drama, Spanish, physical education and academic enrichment.

Currently, the district offers a two-day-per-week schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a one-day schedule on Wednesdays. Children must attend school a minimum of six hours each week to qualify as part-time students. This part-time status enables the district to receive one half of the state-per-pupil funding for each student, which funds the program.

Although 9-R middle school students have had, and continue to have, the option to attend either Escalante or Miller Middle School on a part-time basis, they can also choose to attend the shared school classes that meet on Wednesdays at Miller’s lower level. These classes are designed for sixth through eighth grade students.

In addition to the traditional shared school, the district maintains partnerships with three private elementary schools in town: Columbine Christian, Durango Montessori and the Liberty School. The district provides a 9-R teacher to deliver six hours of weekly instruction at each of the partner schools. Typically, those hours consist of elective classes that are harder for a smaller school to finance but enrich the private school experience. I have seen the many benefits of this program. One of the most rewarding is the partnership that has formed with home school families and private and public schools.

A collaborative culture has enabled us all to appreciate and respect one another’s work; we recognize that we all want the best for each child, and there are several methods to accomplish this goal.

Shared schooling continues to be an option that families use and appreciate in the Durango community. Learn more at durangoschools.org.

For 18 years, Becky Wigton has served as the lead teacher for Durango School District 9-R’s Shared School Program. Reach her at 375-3802.

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