Innovation Charter School

Math teacher Myndi Parm, in her third year with the charter school, teaches a class via Zoom from her classroom in October, 2020.

Innovations Charter School in Walla Walla will shut its doors at the end of the school year, the charter school’s board has decided.

At its April 29 meeting, the board cited low enrollment in its decision not to continue operations for a fourth year.

Principal Paige Albrecht announced the decision in a letter to parents shortly after the meeting.

“We know that this is disappointing news, particularly for our sixth- and seventh-grade families who were planning to return to ICS next fall,” Albrecht wrote.

The grade 5-8 school started in 2018 as Willow Public School.

After a difficult first two years in existence — which included compliance issues with the Washington State Charter School Commission — the school changed its name to Innovations Charter School last summer.

Albrecht said at the time the change of name was part of an effort to move on from the school’s past troubles.

Low enrollment has been an issue that has plagued the school since its inception.

The Washington State Charter School Commission requires each school it oversees to present plans that show it is financially stable. This includes having an enrollment large enough to support the school.

In 2018, the enrollment requirement for the school was 110 students. The school began the school year with 116, but lost students throughout the year amid several struggles.

The chapter school commission determined that the school wasn’t supporting students to its standards.

Students were not meeting standards in areas such as literacy and math.

The school experienced a lot of turnover in leadership.

The charter school commission’s Executive Director Joshua Halsey told the U-B in October, 2020, the new leadership — specifically that of new Superintendent Brenda McDonald — brought a lot of academic improvement. Albrecht also joined the school that year as dean of students.

“It’s a night and day difference,” Halsey said.

However, that didn’t fix the enrollment problem.

In the school’s second year of existence, the commission lowered its target enrollment to 80. However, the school started the year with only 52 students. On the positive side, all but one of those students remained through the year.

Albrecht was promoted to principal for the school’s third year. The commission approved the school to open with 49 students. By October, that number had climbed to 54.

Innovation Public School officials did not comment for this story, but Albrecht did provide the U-B with the letter she sent families and a prepared statement.

In the letter, she said she’s focusing on finishing the school year strong for students.

“This decision will not impact operation during our current school year,” Albrecht wrote to parents. “Our staff is fully committed to supporting our students full 2020-21 school year without disruption. Your students will continue to receive care and support from our staff, and your family has our full commitment to helping your child prepare for a transition in the fall.”

In her written statement, she said the possibility of having to close at the end of the school had been known for a while.

“Our school leadership has been fully transparent with families that this outcome has been an increasingly likely possibility for some time, and families are receiving comprehensive support in their transition,” she said.

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Reporter

Jeremy covers education, as well as Dayton and Columbia County, for the Union-Bulletin. He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.