Growing iGrad adds a building

With its ranks swelling, Kent's iGrad program has expanded to a 4,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by a realty company in a Kent East Hill shopping center.

The growth reflects an increased demand for iGrad's services from at-risk students and high school dropouts. Kent School District's youth re-engagement program has more than doubled with an enrollment of 564 students.

"We had to send kids home for a couple of weeks until I acquired the space and got it open," said iGrad director Carol Cleveland. She said she's had to wait list other students in the GED program, which is at capacity at 150 students.

iGrad's most desired programs are split among culinary arts, dental assistants and the visual arts, as well as technical programs like computer programming, engineering and robotics. Because not all of these programs are offered at Green River Community College, Cleveland is reaching out to the Puget Sound Skills Center in Burien.

The new building provides two additional classrooms, seven offices, a nurses station and two conference rooms.

"It's a nicer facility than the facility that I currently have," Cleveland said.

The student body isn't the only thing expanding at iGrad. The alternative school now offers three other credential options, in addition to its original three: an industry certificate for those with trade schools in mind; a college certificate and a two year degree option, the equivalent of a community college.

The new student body has necessitated additional staff. Cleveland has added a part-time educational assistant and a full time data processor, as well as counselor and a special needs teacher. She's interviewing for a full-time math teacher, as well as an ELL teacher and para-educator.

The new building also needs a second security guard.

The district created the iGrad (Individualized Graduation and Degree Program) last year with a $20,000 endowment from the state. It acts as a specialized alternative school to reengage dropouts and students at risk of dropping out of high school by providing them with the time and resources to learn on their own time.

"Kent School District offers a second chance for students who want to complete this phase of their education," says Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas. "The demand for our program shows how eager people are to succeed. iGrad is another way we provide equal access to education for all."

The first of its kind in the state, iGrad started as a partnership with GRCC as a way to recover dropouts. Since the initial partnership, iGrad also has partnered with Kent Youth and Family Services.

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