Puyallup Digital Learning graduates a growing number of students
Puyallup Digital Learning graduating a growing number of students
Posted on 05/05/2017
Puyallup Digital Learning graduating a growing number of students

This June more than 50 students will graduate from Puyallup Digital Learning programs in a graduation ceremony held at the fairgrounds—receiving the same diploma as Emerald Ridge, Puyallup, Rogers, and Walker high school seniors.

Puyallup Digital Learning is a fully accredited online school sponsored by the Puyallup School District. Located at 716 South Hill Park Drive, Suite B, it includes Puyallup Open Doors (POD), Puyallup Online Academy (POA), and Puyallup Parent Partnership Program (P4).

“It’s a full spectrum. We have Advanced Placement (AP) students, college in high school, special needs students, English Language Learners (ELL), and students with challenges such as homelessness. We do rolling enrollment and will take students at any time. We don’t turn anyone away, ever. If the student is outside of the district they can do a choice transfer. It’s a simple process.”
Lori Hadley, Director of Digital Learning and Puyallup Parent Partnership Programs

Puyallup Digital Learning and has grown from 19 students when it began in 2013-14 to almost 500 students currently enrolled in the various programs.

Certificated teachers oversee the programs, and on-site counselors meet with new students and parents to assist in assessing current transcripts and scheduling classes. Students are required to attend an orientation. The teaching staff includes math, English, social studies, science, and special education teachers. There are more than 100 courses offered, including core, elective, advanced placement (AP), diagnostic, interventions, and credit retrieval.

Lori Hadley, director of digital learning and Puyallup parent partnership programs, said there are many reasons students are enrolling in the Digital Learning programs. Some students attend  traditional high schools and Digital Learning at the same time. Some have special needs that interfere with attending the other high schools. Others have left school for various reasons and have found they are limited in the job market without a diploma or GED.

“We try to eliminate the barriers the best we can. That can include home visits, bus tickets, checking out a computer, and providing meals. We even provided a bike for one student. We try to recognize the barriers and get rid of them so there is equity.” Lori Hadley, Director of Digital Learning and Puyallup Parent Partnership Programs

The staff focuses on building a sense of community within the school to make students feel welcome and encourage them to return, even if they aren’t able to attend regularly. The school is supported by a Parent/Teacher/Student Organization (PTSO). They hold fundraisers and help pay for breakfast or lunches for students that attend. “We try to get kids to come in, even if it’s not a regular lab day. They socialize with other students, and we have seen them grow. The conversations and forming relationships is important. It gives staff times to socialize with kids as well,” said Hadley.

Hadley said she wants to get the word out about the Open Doors drop out recovery program. The Puyallup School Board recently approved a Graduation Alliance partnership to help identify and encourage those who need the services but won’t—or can’t—come in to enroll. She said the Alliance partnership will combine a group of wrap-around services for the neediest kids in order to enable them to complete their education.

“Our goal is an environment where they can relax. We are happy to see them and hope they keep coming back. Our core values are to give them hope and dismantle the barriers to help them see themselves with a future because a lot of them don’t see a future and what they can become. Whatever it takes to get them here and keep them going.” Lori Hadley, Director of Digital Learning and Puyallup Parent Partnership Programs

Puyallup Open Doors

Open Doors is a dropout recovery or reengagement program open to students 16–21 years of age. There are currently 130 students attending. Most Open Doors students are credit deficient and may have dropped out of school before coming to Puyallup Digital Learning. Students can earn a Puyallup School District diploma or prepare for GED testing.

Even though many of the students who begin the program take time off in between, Hadley said they are always encouraged to come back. The goal is to set an environment where students feel welcome to return.

While attending, students are required to come in twice a week for two-hour labs. They can meet with teachers during this time and are required to take the tests on site. “Some students like to come in all day, every day, and we welcome them and always have room,” said Hadley.

“A lot of our Open Doors students are homeless and have to work to support themselves and possibly other people as well.  Some are parents. The necessity to work is great, and it can prevent them from coming in—they just have to have a job. We try to be flexible with our hours of operations, and on Tuesdays we open early and stay late. It has proven to be quite successful,” said Hadley.

After a student turns 21 they can continue until August of that year. Hadley said they are working with Pierce College to establish a hand off—they have a 21-plus program where they could transition to Pierce.

Puyallup Online Academy

The Online Academy mirrors the more traditional student schedule. There are currently 230 full-time students and 80 students who split time between a traditional high school and the Online Academy.

Students are required to have weekly contact with an onsite teacher. Attendance is taken, and   if a student can’t attend they have to contact the Online Academy. Most students are in grades 9-12, however the 7-8 grades are expanding. Parent permission is required for a student to enroll.

Some of the students have medical issues, including allergies. Some have anxiety. The Online Academy gives them the opportunity to work when they are feeling well.

A few students are in competitive sports or dance, and they travel frequently. These are cases where they need to accommodate a future goal, and the traditional brick and mortar school doesn’t meet their needs.

Some students want the flexibility of the Online Academy and they may also be involved in band or choir or some specialized program at their home school. These students attend both schools.

“We have 60 seniors in the Puyallup Online Academy—you won’t see them at our graduation because they will be with their home school, but they have met the graduation requirements through here. Typically they choose to go through graduation with their home school,” said Hadley.

Puyallup Parent Partnership Program (P4)

The Puyallup Parent Partnership Program serves families where the parent/guardian is the primary teacher. Support is provided by a certificated teacher to help create a student's learning plan as well as monitor weekly and monthly progress. Using a web based program called Wings, teachers help support students' learning with teaching strategies and materials. To ensure each student is learning, they monitor progress using standards based assessments three times each year. Additionally, they accommodate state required assessments by coordinating those assessments at this site.

Visit the Puyallup Digital Learning website for more information.


Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us