KRECR expandswith new schoolin Crescent City

Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods was quiet Thursday as teachers prepared for the new school year.

A white board in Director Bernadette Johnson's office listed a series of tasks to accomplish. Teachers went over lesson plans and put the final touches on their classrooms.

The school's new Crescent City campus at 510 East Washington Blvd. will open its doors to 95 students today. And more are interested in attending - 15 students are on a waiting list, Johnson said.

"There is tons of parent interest," she said. "Now that we have a larger population of students, we'll be able to see more accurately how academic performance is doing."

The Del Norte County Unified School District board approved the expansion of KRECR in April with the stipulation that the school enroll at least 40 new students in addition to those already enrolled. The school board also stipulated KRECR raise student achievement steadily over the next three years of its charter until 50 percent of students are scoring proficient on the math and language arts portion of the California Standardized Test.

In addition to the 95 students at the Crescent City campus, 26 students have signed up for KRECR's Klamath campus, fewer than were enrolled last year, although those students are attending classrooms in Crescent City Johnson said.

KRECR's new facility teaches kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The Klamath facility serves sixth- through 12th grade.

Johnson said the school in Klamath has always had about a third of its students travel from outside of the area and many have decided to attend the Crescent City campus. She added that the school has always had a fairly small student population in Klamath.

"One reason we opened in Crescent City was to sustain our school in Klamath," Johnson said, adding that the Klamath school has had as many as 48 students in the past. "We're expecting enrollment to increase in Klamath."

According to Johnson, the students at the Crescent City school will be divided up into three "cohorts" based on age. Cohort A will serve students ages 4-8 or who are in kindergarten through third grade. Students ages 9-12, or fourththrough seventh grade, will bein Cohort B. Students ages 13 and older, or who are in high school, will be in Cohort C.

According to Laura Chandler, a Cohort A teacher, KRECR instructors do their own assessment for reading at grades kindergarten through sixth-grade.

"We compile information about where they are and where we want them to go," she said. "We want strong readers."

Caleb Crotzer, the Cohort C teacher, said many of his students will take college classes in addition to their regular schoolwork. KRECR also employs a college advisor to help get students ready for college and makes sure those who are already in college classes are on top of their assignments.

The main difference between a traditional high school and KRECR is individualized learning -students can move more quickly through a subject or take more time, Crotzer said.

"This year we had a student who earned her AA degree before she graduated," he said.

KRECR students only receive credit when they earn a proficiency or advanced grade in their subjects, Johnson said.

As for improving test scores, Johnson said she feels like 50 percent proficiency in math and language arts is setting the bar too low.

"If that's the district average, 50 percent of kids will not be achieving," she said. "I feel like we would be happier with 80 percent of our kids being proficient."

Johnson added that she thinks the school's individualized learning environment will help students increase their proficiency level.

"Students who maybe wouldn't be challenged in a typical classroom would have the opportunity to work at a higher level," she said.

According to the California Department of Education, KRECR's Klamath campus received an Academic Performance Index rating in 2011 OF/was 616. The department notes, however, that API ratings based on small student numbers are less reliable and should be carefully interpreted.

The Academic Performance Index ranks schools based on results from the California Standardized Test and the California High School Exit Exam. Scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.

Johnson said now that KRECR's student enrollment is more than 100 students, school officials will have a more accurate picture of its academic performance. The school is also taking steps to purchase and implement standardized testing resources to allow it to test its students more frequently, Johnson said.

"Our goal is to be the best performing school in Del Norte County," she said. "We're hoping to make significant academic achievements in the next three years."

In addition to opening a Crescent City campus, KRECR had sought permission from the school board to open a kindergarten facility at Howonquet Head Start in Smith River. Despite the school board denying the request, Johnson said KRECR isn't giving up the idea.

"We still plan to pursue that provided the parents in the community want their own site," she said.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at