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February 2, 2015 at 5:00 AM

For dropouts, free program offers route back toward HS diploma

Inside Federal Way's brand new Acceleration Academy. Photo courtesy FWPS

Inside Federal Way’s brand new Acceleration Academy. Photo courtesy FWPS

Eight hundred former Federal Way students who never earned their high school diplomas should expect a phone call from the school district. Or perhaps a knock on the door.

All are eligible for a free program to get them back on track toward earning a high school credential, and the district is in search mode.

“We’re out there canvassing, knocking on doors, hanging up fliers at malls, making phone calls,” said Ron Mayberry, who oversees Federal Way’s new Acceleration Academy. “We’ll be able to take whatever kids walk through the door.”

The program, which opens Monday, is modeled on iGrad, a successful effort in nearby Kent that has helped dozens of dropouts earn high school diplomas and GED certificates in the past two years.

“The staff’s ecstatic about bringing back hope to many students,” Mayberry said. “It’s a very renewed feeling.”

Like iGrad, the Federal Way academy looks more like a college library than a regular school, and that’s by design. It is located in the Hillside Plaza strip mall, near a Gene Juarez salon and a 24-hour Fitness gym. Inside, any student who left school without a diploma and is at least 16 and still under 21 will meet with an adviser to determine how much course work remains — and whether it can be completed before the 21st-birthday cutoff.

Academy kids earn the same diploma as other Federal Way students, so the coursework will be equally challenging. The main difference is a highly personalized approach, schedule flexibility and help for young people who may have housing, employment, childcare or financial hurdles.

Other than six hours required on-site each week, all of the schoolwork can be done online, at any time that works for students’ schedules. Those who lack computers will get a free Kindle Fire to use for Academy work. (It goes back to the district afterward.)

The Federal Way academy is one of three dozen dropout re-engagement programs now operating statewide under the so-called Open Doors law, which uses regular state education dollars to pay for dropouts getting back on track. It is open to any student — not only those from Federal Way Public Schools — though staff have been reaching out primarily to local youths.

Teachers expect a slow start. So far, only six students are signed up. But if the iGrad experience is any indicator, there could be an onslaught.

For more information, visiting accelerationacademy.org, call 253-945-4590 or stop by the site at Hillside Plaza Shopping Center, 2104 S. 314th Street, Suite 2104, in Federal Way. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Comments | More in News | Topics: Acceleration Academy, dropouts, Federal Way Public Schools

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