When TEAM High School, an alternative high school at Woodland Public Schools, received a donation of $22,000 from the John Moffitt Charitable Foundation, two teachers at the school drafted a proposal to use the funds from the donation to install a second school building on the campus. According to a news release from the district, Jillian Domingo and Elizabeth “Liz” Vallaire advocated for using the funds to build a building to offer specialized education, increase course and project offerings and provide free meals for TEAM’s students.
With students taking part in distance learning due to COVID-19, enrollment has more than doubled at TEAM high school in Woodland. With vaccines on the horizon and a return to in-person instruction to follow, the staff at TEAM realized the existing portable building might not offer all the opportunities teachers want to give their students.
“We applied to use the John Moffitt Charitable Foundation’s generous donation so we could create a multi-purpose area where TEAM students could participate in hands-on learning assignments and receive direct instruction from certificated staff,” Domingo said in the news release. “With the new space, we can provide multi-sensory, multi-faceted approaches to learning for students with special needs who process information differently neurologically; these students can now be served using specialized instruction.”
The John Moffit Charitable Foundation recognized TEAM’s need and provided a donation of $22,240 last year to install an additional portable facility on the school’s existing property. In addition to classroom space, the building also includes a kitchen area for students and staff to use for classes, science experiments and meal preparation.
“With this kitchen area, we will be able to offer home economics classes, the opportunity for students to conduct heat- and chemical-based science projects, and also the ability for students to prepare their own meals,” said Domingo. “Access to meals at school has been linked to higher attendance rates, improved student performance, and increased graduation rates.”
According to the release, the expansion will allow students to take part in new classes and activities, such as an art and music studio, exercise space and student work areas. Outside of the building, students will have access to a new concrete patio with a picnic table and overhang so students can take breaks outside, rain or shine.
“The vast majority of our students have disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) permitting them to take breaks when needed,” Domingo said. “Having an eating area protected from the elements offers our students the option to enjoy a rest or eat a meal outside without having to worry about the weather.”
Between 2014 and 2018, the graduation rate at TEAM High School more than tripled, and the school’s goal continued to have a four-year graduation rate at or about 70 percent by the end of the 2021 school year, according to the release.
“Success of the impact of the donation will be measured by improvement to our graduation rate as well as having students meet school and district goals for state testing proficiency,” Domingo said.
TEAM High School differs from traditional high school by offering local students an opportunity to earn a high school diploma while accommodating individual life circumstances such as full-time work, challenges with traditional school schedules or family responsibilities.
The staff of TEAM try to help people think of alternative high schools differently.
“Many people hear ‘alternative school’ and think it’s a place for ‘troubled’ kids,” Vallaire said. “We want to change that perception: we don’t have ‘typical’ students — we have high-achieving students; students with life responsibilities; and students whose life circumstances make TEAM’s approach to learning a better fit.”
“TEAM can be great for students because we meet them where they are academically and offer a myriad of support and flexibility with classes to help them succeed,” Domingo said. “Since we have time to work with our students one-on-one, they share information about their work, hobbies, and home lives; I feel having that knowledge helps me be a better teacher by allowing me to adjust my instruction to fit their specific needs and learning styles.”
While in remote learning, Domingo sees her students still diligently working on their studies.
“My students have been absolute rockstars at home learning with at least three having caught up on more than an entire year of school,” she said. “It’s been really cool to see these kids discovering how they can get ahead in their studies by using remote learning to their advantage and jumping on that opportunity.”
The new TEAM high school facility, a previously-used portable building, was installed by the WPS facility team in December.