SANDPOINT — When the Homeschool Academy opened its doors two years ago, it welcomed 16 students.
As HSA director Melinda Rossman prepares for the school's third year, that number has grown by an additional 100 youngsters in grades K-8 seeking supplemental education for their home-school programs.
"And it's going to continue to grow," Rossman said.
For now, however, the school is at capacity with the 116 students, though she does expect to expand more throughout the year, with a projection of 200 kids enrolled by June. And with the move into the remodeled 3,500-square-foot building in front of Sandpoint High School, Rossman can expand the opportunities for those students as well.
Rossman said her goal is to become one of the leading arts and sciences schools in the state, if not the nation.
Last year, Rossman expanded from three days a week to five, adding theater and music in partnership with the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint, as well as culinary arts. This year, the new location will allow her to bring many of the programs in-house, as it has a full kitchen and a lot more space than the school's previous location.
Rossman said she is partnering with Adreeanna Black and Alyssa Lucero from 7B Culinary Connections to teach the culinary arts program as well. The students will not only learn to cook, but will learn about "every aspect of food," Rossman said, such as sanitation, proper storage, kitchen etiquette and more. Rossman added a fitness and health class to this year's schedule as well. Rossman will again have the eight-week winter education program with ski and ride at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, as well as nordic skiing and winter ecology lessons.
Environmental education has been a focus of HSA since its inception, and Rossman received a $1,227 from Panhandle Alliance for Education this year for "Exploring Nature Connections." With the money from PAFE, Rossman purchased a professional-grade weather station and water quality monitoring kit for the school.
The new building also has a library full of books, and the district bought the school some new Chromebooks and iPads. There is one large classroom where Rossman said the students will start out each day, and then there are smaller classrooms. Curriculum each week will include lessons in English Language Arts, math, art, science and American sign language and Spanish. Academic tutoring will be provided on what Rossman has dubbed, "Thoughtful Thursdays," and what was previously "Freeform Fridays" will now be "Field Event Friday." The first Friday, the kids will help install four garden planters donated to the school by Sandpoint Elks Lodge No. 1376.
Students enrolled in the HSA are required to attend a minimum of 2.5 hours each week, and it is the choice of each family which lessons and activities the kids are involved in. This year, Rossman said she projects the school will see 1,300 hours of student attendance each week. The school, which is administered through the Lake Pend Oreille School District, is funded by the state based on attendance and is "self-supporting," Rossman said. It does not require any levy dollars and is free for students to enroll.
"This is just so exciting to do," Rossman said. "And I think the most important thing about this school is the partnership with the families. The families really guide what this school is and then I facilitate it. That family partnership truly is the foundation of this school."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.