Searching for Equitable Student Access: Principal proposes moving Two Rivers High School into Mount Si High School

After making a big curriculum change and becoming a Big Picture School at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Two Rivers School Principal Rhonda Schmidt approached the Snoqualmie Valley School Board on February 11th, proposing another big change for the small school: moving from its stand alone campus in North Bend into Mount Si High School.

What’s a Big Picture School? It’s an education model that uses project-based curriculum and is tailored to each student and their interests. Local internships are a required component part of the program. Students are typically at those internship twice a week. They are also paired with one teacher adviser during high school. Graduation is competency based, not credit based.

Currently Two Rivers has about 65 students, with 10 freshman and 12 sophomores enrolled in the new Big Picture program – but Schmidt feels the program would grow if not for a few issues at the current small campus, including limited course and transportation options.

She said moving Two Rivers to Mount Si and creating a separate ‘school within a school’ would maintain the program’s integrity while also providing more access for students who want expanded class options. There would be optional student flow out for elective courses, but no flow in of non Two Rivers students.

Schmidt said, “It’s about equity for my students.” She explained currently she has one student who rides his bike between Two Rivers and Mount Si daily in order to participate in band. Another student has their mother drive them to and from MSHS to take French. Additionally, students who take the bus home are required to leave 25 minutes before the school day ends in order to catch the feeder bus to Mount Si and transfer to their main route. Two Rivers students also do not have access to the college visits that occur at Mount Si.

Currently the proposal to relocate Two Rivers is in the early feasibility stages. Schmidt proposed using the third floor of the MSHS Freshman Campus building as the school’s home, noting that location also provides room for growth if more students wish to access the Big Picture program. She said TR students would be restricted to periods 1-4 at Mount Si, which would keep two full days free for internships, something the school’s block schedule accommodates.

Schmidt commented, “I want the best for my students at Two Rivers and I think this is the best move.”

Superintendent Manahan and MSHS John Belcher are exploring additional potential locations within Mount Si that could accommodate the move. The school board expressed a strong desire to hear from Two Rivers students. Schmidt said she expects a range of opinions, saying students with social anxiety who have sought out her smaller school may have concerns. She said she expects others would be supportive. Schmidt also pointed out that her desired location in the FC would allow for separated entrances and exits for the Two Rivers students, which might help reduce anxiety.

At the February 27th school board meeting, pros and cons of a potential move will be discussed in more detail. Before then board members asked Schmidt to gather input from current TR students.

SVSD School Board President Carolyn Simpson commented, “During our February 27th school board meeting, we will hear more about the proposal to move Two Rivers High School onto the Mount Si campus.  We will discuss the opportunities for students to have access to a broader range of classes offered at the much larger and comprehensive Mount Si High School.  We anticipate students would be interested in classes like CTE, PE, music, arts, and dual college credit classes, among others, not offered at Two Rivers.  We will also hear more about efforts to still create the feeling of a separate campus, a school within a school, so to speak. The board is interested in hearing from students, staff, and the public as we consider this important decision for students. I applaud Principal Schmidt bringing forth this proposal, and I look forward to continued discussion and deliberation as we approach a decision best for students. “

Mount Si High School currently has approximately 1665 FTE (full time equivalent) students and Two Rivers has 65. The new MSHS has a capacity for 2,300 students. The most recent demographer medium range district enrollment report does not anticipate high school enrollment (MSHS and TR) reaching 2,300 for approximately two decades – although the demographer cautioned these projections are based upon many assumptions that could change. (Mount Si was also built with an area to hold a future addition for 300 students.)

When asked what might become of the Two Rivers building if the school moves, Board President Simpson said, “Superintendent Manahan is starting work to analyze facilities needs district wide. Should Two Rivers move to Mount Si, future use of the current Two Rivers building will be part of this comprehensive facilities review.“

Two Rivers School in North Bend. PC: TR Facebook page

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