Small Schools Offer Big Benefits

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Bigger isn’t always better. With less than 100 students enrolled at their comfortably sized campuses, Bend Elementary School and Monarch Learning Center are proving that smaller schools are, in fact, pretty special.

Unlike larger schools, where students might be just another face in the hallway, at Monarch and Bend, teachers are able to greet most everyone by name. Small class sizes allow each school’s staff to provide an individualized learning experience, and strong bonds are created between teachers and students in the classroom.

Children at Bend Elementary School love making music with teacher Abbie Ehorn, a music specialist with Evergeen Union School District.

Children at Bend Elementary School love making music with teacher Abbie Ehorn, a music specialist with Evergeen Union School District.

“The number one thing new families say when they enroll at Monarch is that they love the small family feel of our school,” says Patricia Davis, the school’s director/principal. “Parents say their children feel welcome and feel like they have an important place here.”

Monarch, a public charter school located in Redding, boasts five classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a basketball/tennis court, a grass field, and a play structure. The school’s capacity is 120 students, from transitional kindergarten through eighth grade. “Currently, we have 85 students, and we’ve had families applying daily,” Davis says. “We have five teachers, three of whom have a master’s degree in education, with a combined experience of more than 25 years.”

Red Bluff’s Bend School has a comparable enrollment, with approximately 75 students in TK through eighth grade, says Brad Mendenhall, superintendent of Evergreen School District. Bend is often described as a “quintessential small rural school,” nestled in a beautiful calm meadow. Local children enjoy safely riding their bikes to school.

Bend employs seven teachers and three instructional aides, providing instruction in all subjects in multi-graded contexts. The school includes a learning center, and this year they’ll be rolling out a “MakerSpace” with the help of Michelle Carlson and her Red Bluff-based company, Future Development Group, Mendenhall says.

Bend’s thriving music program is hosted by Abbie Ehorn, a dynamic music consultant and specialist from Evergreen Union School District. She infuses a love of rhythm-building activities, movement, choir, and, of course, musical instrument experiences. Bend students can also participate in sports, including soccer and basketball.

“We are most proud of how connected our school is with our community and of course how well our students excel academically, as well as in their own pursuits,” says Mendenhall. “We feel that the climate we create and maintain at Bend allows students to reach their potential and gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams and interests.”

Because both schools are under the umbrella of larger school districts – Bend is the smallest of Evergreen’s three schools and Monarch is sponsored by Redding School District – they are able to offer a variety of programs that other small schools may not be able to.

With some help from the community, Monarch’s elective classes include karate, tennis, History Through Film, Odyssey of the Mind, American Sign Language, Spanish, Literature Circle, character education and art. The classes allow students to mingle across grade levels and collaborate on interesting projects, says Davis.

The support of the tight-knit Bend district community is a necessary piece of the puzzle for Bend School to thrive, says Mendenhall. Families volunteer in the classroom and at school events. “We couldn’t do it without them,” he adds. “Their participation and support makes the difference.” Parents are always welcome, and the school has begun to establish annual community events, including Eco Day and a fishing day with help from the Bureau of Land Management.

In addition, Driscoll’s has been an incredible supporter, Mendenhall says. The company helped the school with planting of apple trees and an organic school garden, as well as donating toward playground equipment, says Anna Hetu, the school’s administrative secretary.

Alex (in green) enjoys free-reading while Shae (in black) finishes a writing assignment​.​ Principal Patricia Davis shows Shae where the writing process is posted on the classroom wall. Both students are in 3rd grade at Monarch Learning Center.

Alex (in green) enjoys free-reading while Shae (in black) finishes a writing assignment​.​ Principal Patricia Davis shows Shae where the writing process is posted on the classroom wall. Both students are in 3rd grade at Monarch Learning Center.

Students at Monarch interact with the Redding community through many field study trips that are scheduled each year. “A consistent favorite is Whiskeytown National Recreation Area,” says Davis. “Students love the chance to conduct stream studies, explore old homesteads, and, of course, pan for gold! Students also get the chance to reenact the Gold Rush boomtown of Old Shasta, which is a great way to live the local history. Monarch also takes trips to the Coleman Fish Hatchery and the Rodeo Grounds. Students get to experience the wonder of live music and performance at the Cascade Theatre multiple times a year, which is something that has driven some students to pursue performance arts.”

“Monarch Learning Center was excited at the prospect of using the Next Generation Science Standards as our guide to science instruction,” says Davis. “As a science-based school, we knew we had to find a curriculum that was thorough, engaging, and student centered, offering students the chance to dig deeper and explore content that grabs their attention. The incorporation of technology with informational text and content is amazing. We are anticipating higher levels of engagement, a greater depth of knowledge, and an increased love of science learning in our students.”

“Students at Monarch know they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and even bigger than the school,” says Davis. “They are the future of Redding, and they want to accept that responsibility,” adds Davis. Call the school at (530) 247-7307 or visit their website at monarchkids.com to learn more.

Bend School “is founded from the belief and understanding that real learning only happens when meaningful relationships exist,” Mendenhall says. “The level of support and caring that our staff provides to our students and each other creates an environment where learning not only happens, but thrives!” Bend School can be reached by calling (530) 527-4648, or visit them online at http://www.evergreenusd.com/ev-bend.  

Skye Kinkade
About Skye Kinkade

Skye Kinkade is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and mother of four lively children. She enjoys being part of a close-knit community that is so generous and kind in difficult times.

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