Friday, September 26, 2014
Travis Franklin is only 30. Eight years ago, he was a fresh-faced Whitworth College graduate, ready to become a teacher.
But now, the former Mead School District teacher (and the brother-in-law of former Inlander freelancer Blair Franklin) is preparing for the launch next fall of one of Spokane’s most ambitious schools: The Spokane International Academy.
On Wednesday night, the charter school was approved by Spokane Public Schools as the second charter in the city. Almost immediately, interest began flooding in.
“Yesterday, I had about 30 e-mails looking to enroll their kids in our school,” Franklin said Friday morning.
In one sense the Academy is the sort – high standards, language immersion, and international travel – that appeals to elite, wealthy and hyper-involved parents. But that’s not the only type of student he wants. He also wants to focus on low-income and refugee students, some who struggle to speak English.
It's in the former St. Patrick’s School building, square in the middle of the economically depressed Hillyard neighborhood. That’s intentional. By being close to many of those families, he hopes, it will be easier to attract them.
For the last three months, he and his team have been embedding themselves in the Hillyard neighborhood, meeting businesses, parents and community groups. He's been doing the same with organizations who work with refugees. “I meet weekly with families with World Relief, to help those families understand that there are options,” Franklin say.
They’ll use the internationally recognized and lauded Cambridge curriculum. (North Central High School already uses the Cambridge course for high school. We wrote about it here.)
Foreign language instruction, through the Rosetta Stone curriculum, is a given. “All of our students will learn a second language. In the case of some of our refugee students, they’ll know two or three or four already,” Franklin says. “But they just don’t know English.”
It all builds up to the 8th grade year.
In the first half of that year, students will take on a very big issue, like water quality or housing availability, and then examine it thoroughly at the local, state, national or international level. In the second half, they’ll expand out to study how that issue impacts a foreign country.
And here’s the capper: At the end of the year the student will travel to that country.
“Every [8th grade] kid, is going to go, for free, on an international humanitarian trip at the end of school… It’s already written into our budget,” Franklin says. “One of the things about being a charter school, we have a lot of flexibility with our finances.”
Franklin’s brimming with other ideas. He wants to partner with World Relief, Whitworth, and Gonzaga University to train teachers in how to modify lessons for non-native English speakers. Considering the number of skilled soccer players among the local refugee population, the school could run its own soccer club. And it only costs $1.50 per student to use Spokane Transit Authority buses for field trips. So when they’re learning about water, Franklin suggests, they could visit with the Riverkeeper or take a trip to the hatchery. When they learn about aeronautics, they could go to Fairchild.
"I have this really strong passion to mine all of these resources in Spokane," Franklin says.
If all goes as planned, the Spokane International Academy will open next fall. They’ll begin with 120 students – in grades kindergarten, first and 6th – and eventually grow to 450 students, from kindergarten through 8th grade.
Check out his lengthy application here.