Charter school gives teens an alternative option

NAMPA — Raymond Combe had given up on his education while attending Union High School last year.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I felt overwhelmed.”

He struggled and failed out of sophomore year. At 16 years old, he realized his options for graduating were running out and did not want to be a high school dropout.

“I want a good paying job and I know having an education helps,” he said.

This school year, Raymond hasn’t received a failing grade and has completed four class credits towards his sophomore year. He’s attending Pathways in Education — Nampa (PIE), a new charter school in the Nampa School District that opened in August.

Raymond Combe

“The work isn’t easier, but it’s a lot less stressful,” Raymond said. “I don’t feel rushed anymore and that was a big problem for me.”

The school serves teens who need help to get back on track to graduate. Pathways in Education is part of a larger organization of Pathways schools across the United States, including Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana and Tennessee.

“A lot of students need a different path and some kids feel uncomfortable in a large setting,” said Susan Lux, the principal at PIE Nampa. “We put together plans and support for students to be successful.”

The school

The school is 8,400 square feet and located in a strip mall nestled between a Mexican market and a Family Dollar store near the intersection of East Roosevelt Avenue and Holly Street in Nampa.

Student enrollment is at 124 teens and maximum capacity is 300. The school staffs seven educators, including a special education teacher.

Teachers don’t have classrooms. Their desks face out in a large room filled with tables where students work. Each teacher has a whiteboard above their desk that displays quotes, photos and community events for students to attend. The purpose is for students to feel relaxed and comfortable while learning.

“It’s a different feeling when you have an open concept in a room,” Lux said. “The purpose is to lend support to the entire room.”

The learning process

Students attend school two days a week for two hours. Teachers meet with students one-on-one and in a group setting. Students learn in-person, at-home and online. The goal is for students to have a flexible and supportive learning environment. Most of the work is done at home and students are responsible for their achievement.

“This provides an opportunity for students to succeed where they may have previously struggled,” Lux said.

Students work at their own pace to accommodate for their ability and learning level. The goal is to have students complete one class credit a month.

In addition to coursework, there are opportunities to travel. Students from all of the Pathways schools come together for learning expeditions to sustainable farms, working ranches and Washington, D.C.

Last week, five Nampa students traveled to Cuba on a 10-day trip to explore the culture. The expeditions are funded through donations. During their travels, students earn both academic and community-service credits.

“Kids are making progress in weeks and months that they weren’t making in a year,” said Craig Naylor, an independent study teacher at PIE Nampa.

The school offers open enrollment year-round. For more information click here.

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