This School Lets Youths Educate Themselves -- Chrysalis Is Alternative To Standard Classes
Seattle Times Eastside Bureau
WOODINVILLE - A lot of students who think they hate academics change their minds after a few weeks at Chrysalis School.
The classroom building is tucked into a nondescript, root-beer-brown business park. There's no football team, no marching band, no cliques and no hassle. Every Chrysalis student works from an independent study plan.
The unusual program began in 1983, when director Karen Fogle decided to home-school her children. The standard "40-hour" school week keeps young people from progressing at their own pace, she said.
"It's not fun. Learning should be fun for your whole life," she said. "I didn't want my kids thinking school is where you learn. Most of the things valuable in life, you learn outside school."
The year-round school accepts students in grades two through 12, and there are now 260 students. Later this year it will grow from 8,000 square feet to 12,000.
Students show up on campus one to four times per week for faculty tutoring or small-group discussions. They average one to two hours of daily homework. Chrysalis, at 18720 142nd Ave. N.E., Building D, in Woodinville, appeals to students who fall through the cracks in traditional high schools or chafe under a six-period schedule.
To get in, they must bare their souls in entrance applications. New student Drew Thompson, 17, of Mill Creek called himself a "hands-on learner" but admitted being "easily distracted in a classroom." He didn't learn much in his 90-minute "block classes" at Jackson High School earlier this year, he said in an interview.
"When you sit a kid down whose attention span is 12 minutes, kids jump around in the classroom and get loud, it's a lot harder for kids to learn."
Yesterday, his first day at Chrysalis, he received a six-course study plan that includes literature and history readings. "It's more one on one. You go at a pace that's your own," he said.
The school promotes intimacy. The four students in yesterday's honors English class shared profound feelings. Shannon Miller, 18, read from her essay about a lily in the woods: "With each day, a new dawn is at hand. The lily desires the light of the sun, but every movement the sun makes invokes an inner heat too scorching for the lily to bear. Amidst the plentiful forest the white lily melts." The passage can represent childhood innocence lost or a damaging sexual encounter, she said.
In one-on-one tutoring, faculty identify and overcome stumbling blocks. On Monday, student Adam Warrender got stuck on an algebra problem that required charting a line on an X-Y axis. Teacher Dan Lovitt steered him through it in a few minutes.
"You probably want to do some of this right away. You don't want to wait until Sunday night," he advised.
Internet connections enable students to download and send lessons online. Athletes have worked toward Chrysalis diplomas while training in other states - among them gymnast Brett McClure of Mill Creek, whose U.S. team took gold last month in the junior men's division of the International Team Championships in Knoxville, Tenn.
Though Chrysalis gets its share of high-scoring students, it aims mainly for the community-college-bound population, Fogle said.
It's a good fit for students who support themselves or face family crises. Last year, 11 students' close relatives died, and the students probably were better off without the stressful routine of most schools, Fogle said. The school also educates recovering drug addicts, who must swear off even cigarettes before admission.
Students can learn sign language and European languages, calculus and natural sciences. For advanced lab work, faculty will help arrange for students to use other buildings or agencies. Some take accelerated courses so they can graduate early.
Of the 34 graduates since June 1997, eight took jobs, 13 entered two-year colleges, one joined the military, two entered universities and 10 were classified as undecided.
Tuition runs $295 to $650 a month, depending on the time on site. The school is accredited by Washington state and by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.
The name "Chrysalis" refers to the protective coating around a developing butterfly. Enlarged photos of butterfly wing patterns are mounted in Fogle's office and the front desk. Like those images, students' interests express distinct colors and patterns.
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To contact Chrysalis School, phone 425-481-2228 or open Internet address www.chrysalis-school.com
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