Frequently Asked Questions
Weaving communities together
What is WIHS?
Whatcom Intergenerational High School is an equity-driven, tuition free, public WA charter school opening for 9th and 10th graders in Sept. 2021. WIHS will offer 11th grade in Sept. 2022 and 12th grade in Sept. 2023. WIHS offers a unique and powerful educational opportunity where Whatcom County students are seen, heard, and valued. In collaboration with several Whatcom County non-profit organizations, WIHS is committed to creating a culture of inclusivity that supports students from all cultural backgrounds as they enjoy small class sizes in a positive learning environment.
What does it mean to be an "Intergenerational" high school?
Intergenerational is when multiple generations come together. At WIHS, elders are valued members of our learning community. They provide social and emotional support, share wisdom, and connect with students both in and out of the classroom setting. Students also learn with elders and traditional providers who share business/trade skills, cultural knowledge, and historical wisdom. With intergenerational support from teachers, elders, and peers, WIHS students:
-Develop skills for college and career
-Plan for a meaningful and fulfilling life
-Learn with and from community
What does intergenerational support look like?
WIHS’s elder co-mentorship program, the Intergenerational Learning Alliance (ILA), involves volunteer community elders connecting with students on a weekly basis. We want to emphasize the co-mentorship aspect, because learning should not be one sided. As a learning community, we want all of our members to benefit from being involved. In this alliance, there are cohorts with about six students per elder, and there will be flexibility as groupings are developed. The elders who volunteer with us will have the opportunity to be involved in the school day, including the morning circles and the open afternoons designated for phenomenon-based learning. All Whatcom County elders are welcome to learn more about getting involved with the ILA! We also highly encourage family involvement in students’ learning and in our community activities. For more information on the Intergenerational Learning Alliance and how you or someone you know could become a co-mentor, please contact our AmeriCorp VISTA Diana Childs at firstname.lastname@example.org
What makes WIHS different from other public high schools in the area?
WIHS provides a holistic and enriching academic experience to Whatcom County students who want a connected learning community and a say in what they are learning. Our curriculum is built to ensure students experience the personalized learning and support they need to thrive. This is done through a variety of innovative teaching methods, including:
– Phenomenon-Based Learning: Students co-create their learning experience, enabling them to pursue their passions, think critically, solve problems, and be creative. With the support and mentorship of teachers, elders, and community, this approach helps students develop a strong sense of individual and community culture while exploring real-world skills.
– Critical Literacy: This learning approach allows us to expand worldviews and foster better thinkers. Students are taught to understand that no text is neutral – bias is in everything. Critical Literacy is the ability to identify these biases and see the power dynamics in books, social media, music, art, news, and other resources. With this skill, students have a deeper understanding of what they are looking at and are able to design or redesign texts in their own powerful voices.
– FPPL and STI: WIHS incorporates the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) and Since Time Immemorial (STI) curriculum as a way of broadening perspectives, embracing ethical teaching, and drawing from the wisdom of different generations and cultures. Everything we do here at Whatcom Intergenerational High School is based on these guiding principles. This approach to learning ultimately supports the well-being of self, family, community, land, spirits, and all students’ cultural and ancestral experiences.
-Intergenerational Support: WIHS incorporates community elders into the structure of our school through the Intergenerational Learning Alliance (ILA). This program provides a space where generations can connect and combine life wisdoms to learn boldly together.
How does grading work?
WIHS uses a competency-based grading system, meaning that students will receive a grade based on how well they demonstrate a particular skill or content standard. Students are evaluated on a 4 point scale; developing, emerging, proficient, and finally, mastery. Although WIHS does not use traditional letter grades, our grading system will still translate to a traditional GPA for student transcripts and applications to college.
Do WIHS credits transfer to colleges?
Yes! As a public school in WA, WIHS is authorized by the state. Therefore, students’ transcripts have the same standing as any other public high school. At WIHS students earn a minimum of 30 credits in order to graduate, and our transcript is recognized for acceptance into colleges and universities.
Where is the school located?
WIHS has the unique opportunity to be located at the Bellis Fair Mall. Here we will bring life and community to what is gradually becoming more of a community hub and less of a commercial center. We are excited to call the mall our new home and provide the following benefits to our students:
– An easily accessible learning center for students coming from Bellingham, Ferndale, and the county
– A non-isolated campus, with increased connectedness to the broader community
– Close proximity to our partnership organizations: the Makerspace, where all creative dreams come true, and Unbridled Spirit, where students and elders can connect with natural world
– Close Proximity to Whatcom Community College for college preparedness activities, community events and Running Start (earning college credit while in high school)
Do you offer transportation?
Yes! All WIHS students will receive free Whatcom Transit Authority (WTA) passes in order to bus to school. Ample parking is also available for drop-offs and student drivers.
How many students will attend?
WIHS is excited to open a small learning community of sixty 9th and 10th grade students for the 2021-2022 school year, and grow into a school of 120 students in grades 9 through 12 by the year 2024. Benefits of a small learning environment include more one-on-one time with teachers and a tight-knit sense of community.
Do you offer Special Education?
Yes! WIHS provides all Special Education services identified in a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and is committed to providing these services in the most inclusive environment. WIHS’s Special Education teacher, Kesia Micheletti, serves as a Case Manager for students who receive services, and we contract for other related service providers.
What does a school day at WIHS look like?
Our school week will be Monday through Friday, 8:30am-3:30pm, with a unique daily structure that incorporates time for community building, interdisciplinary learning, and student designed learning experiences. School days begin with the chance for students to check in with themselves, teachers, and elders. Time is then dedicated to team taught core classes and deep, investigative learning. This is followed by time devoted to Phenomenon-Based Learning, where students are guided by teachers in designing their own explorations and learning experiences. These longer blocks of time allow students to investigate content from multiple perspectives, as well as deepen relationships among subjects.
How do students apply?
Students and families may apply by submitting an intent to enroll found on our website at Intergenerational.School/enrollement. Once we receive your application, WIHS staff will work with your family and student’s previous school to transfer school records.
Once I apply, am I guaranteed a spot?
Not quite. WIHS will enroll sixty 9th and 10th graders for the 2021-2022 school year. If interest exceeds these numbers, a public lottery will be held on February 15th. Following the lottery, a waitlist will be based on the order in which applications were received. However, if not all sixty spots are filled, students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Are charter schools public schools?
YES! Charter schools are a type of public school. Like all public schools, they are open to all students, tuition-free, publicly funded, staffed by certified teachers, held accountable to state and national standards. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning, and have more flexibility around things like staffing and length of the school day and school year.
Who is attending charter schools?
Parents and students choose to attend charter public schools. Public charter schools are free and open to ALL students. In some communities, traditional public schools are meeting the needs of local students. But not all communities are succeeding equally. In Washington, African American, LatinX and Native American Students are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments. According to initial state-wide assessment data, students at Washington’s public charter schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.
How are charter schools funded?
Public charter schools are funded based on students enrollment, just like district public schools. If a student transfers from another public school to a charter public school, the costs and funding associated with educating that student follow that student to the charter school. Like any public school, charter public schools depend on a mix of federal and state funding. Unlike local district schools, charter schools do not receive support from local property tax levies.
Who teaches at public charter schools?
Charter public school teachers must be certified, just like teachers at other public schools. Charter public school teachers have the right to unionize and collectively bargain for pay, benefits, and working conditions, just like teachers at other public schools. Teachers at charter public schools earn salaries competitive with traditional public schools and receive state employee benefits.