Puget Sound Community School

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Liana Green
Teaching Staff

Liana Green can no longer remember how much her allowance was as a pre-teen, but she remembers what it meant to her.

“I would save my allowance and go rent a saxophone from the music store,” she says. “I’d have that for three months, and then I’d take that back and get a clarinet and have that for a couple months. Then I’d take it back and go get a tuba. That was just fun for me.

“I would sit in my room and figure out how to make music on different instruments.”

Since then, Liana has learned . . .

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What everyone wants to know about PSCS

How many students attend PSCS?

We have 52 students enrolled for the 2017–2018 school year. For more info on the admissions process please click here.

Why is the school so small?

The size of the community ensures an intimacy that allows us to give all students the personal attention they deserve. Along with our 11:1 student-teacher ratio, we consider it one of our greatest assets.

What ages are the students at PSCS?IMG_6830

Our students are between the ages of 11 and 18. This corresponds to grades 6–12 in more traditional schools. We enroll new students in middle school (6-8th grade) as well as high school (9th and 10th grade—although we occasionally  consider a student who is a bit older but willing to commit to 3 years in our program before graduation).

How old is the school?

2017 marks our 24th anniversary! PSCS was founded in 1994 by Andy Smallman and Melinda Shaw. Read more about our history here.

Who works at the school?

For 2017–2018, we have 5 teaching staff members, 4 administrators, 2 adjunct teaching staff members, and dozens of volunteers. Our goal is to surround students with talented people of high character who are excited about life.

Where do all the school activities take place?

We begin and end each school day at our campus in the Chinatown-International District. We also take lots of field trips and encourage other activities such as Independent Study and service projects that happen off-campus. As a community school we want to take advantage of the resources of the larger community and get away from the notion that learning only happens in a school building.

What are your school hours? Do you have any attendance requirements?

The school day goes from 9am to 3:40pm and there are 171 days in the 2017–2018 school year. We require that all students be present at school or involved in school-sanctioned off-campus activities between those times for a minimum of 1,000 Community Hours during the school year. We also require all students to attend the school for at least three full years (and be at least 16 years old) to be eligible for graduation.

Speaking of which, what are the graduation requirements?

Great question! Read more here

Do all of your students get a high school diploma?

Most of our students choose to pursue graduating from PSCS and earn a high school diploma. In rare cases a student will choose not to work towards a high school diploma, believing she/he will be better served by following a less traditional path through high school. We support our students in whatever path they choose to take.

It sounds like the students aren’t required to take a specific academic program. Are there any academic requirements at all?

It’s true, there are no required academic courses at PSCS, but that is not meant to suggest that PSCS students do not pursue academics. Quite the contrary, actually. Our students learn to set goals and do the work needed to achieve these goals, and many goals require academic-type skills. For instance, a common goal is gaining admittance to a college or university. And since college entrance typically involves a demonstration of academic competence, students choose academic offerings to develop this competence. An important thing to note about a PSCS education is our belief that developing academic skills is a natural byproduct to being in a loving, nurturing, supportive community designed to help people identify and achieve their goals.

But how can I be sure that my child will learn the basics?

This question presupposes that being forced to take certain classes means people actually learn those things being “taught.” At PSCS, students pursue learning at their own pace, driven by their curiosity. Over the years, we have found that they naturally come upon what are considered “basics” at other schools in their own time. Most often, this happens in the context of a deeper passion and is more likely to happen the longer the student is at the school. For example, we had a student realize that he wanted to do computer programming. As he started programming, he recognized that he needed math and launched into algebra, pursuing it endlessly for weeks. Rather than learning it for the purpose of passing a test (and then forgetting it afterwards), he learned it as part of pursuing a personal interest and has the knowledge for life.

Do the students have homework?

Many of the courses and activities offered at school will have assigned work students need to do outside of class. But in a school like PSCS, where students are given the freedom to pursue their own interests in whatever way they choose, there is often much less distinction between working at home and working at school. Regardless, the amount of work students do at home is based on a number of personal choices they make, all related to their goals.

Are your students required to take standardized tests?

No, students are not required to take any standardized, performance-based, assessment tests.

How do PSCS students get into college? Do they take the SAT?

Students interested in going to college work closely with staff members to develop a strategy for getting into a college program that interests them. This involves identifying college entrance requirements and doing the work to meet them, which sometimes includes preparing for and taking the SAT or other admissions exams. But we want to stress that there are unique paths for gaining admittance to colleges, not just the one-size-fits-all GPA, AP classes, and SAT scores that get popularized by the media. If one of our students wants to get into college, we can help her/him achieve that goal.

Are there any extracurricular activities available, like sports and drama?

There is no distinction at PSCS between “curricular” and “extra-curricular” activities. Art, music, math, grammar, conversation, play—all of these are part of our curriculum. But there are some activities that by nature are difficult to house in a small school setting. When students demonstrate an interest in pursuing these kinds of activities we help them find ways to get involved by joining a sports league, a student theater production, getting an apprenticeship with a stockbroker, etc.

Is PSCS for everyone?

Given the extraordinary nature of the school, parents and students need to carefully consider whether the school is right for them. There is an adjustment in coming to a school where the academics required in most schools are made optional. Such an adjustment requires patience and trust, and a belief that each human being has a unique wisdom that needs only a supportive environment, caring people, and time to be made known. PSCS is not the right school for children with extreme behavior challenges who require constant adult supervision. And it’s not the right school for parents who feel they need to make every educational decision for their children.

What is the admissions process?

See here for information about visiting the school and getting an application.