Strawberry Valley School now accepting new students

Skye Kinkade
Students at Strawberry Valley School (held on the Sisson campus) learn in a hands-on way, often in multi-age groups. Above, they are learning about pi on Pi Day out on the field.

Enrollment has begun for Strawberry Valley School, a “magnet school” with a focus on arts and sciences put forward last year by Mount Shasta Union School District as an alternative to traditional classroom education.

Parent observation days will be offered on March 31 and April 1 and 2.

The pilot program has worked well, said teachers Juliane Tinsman and Julie May. They’re excited to hone their curriculum even more now that they have a better understanding of what works.

They teach two multi-age classes (2-3 grades and 4-5 grades) in Sisson’s library wing.

Any child currently in grades 1 or 2 is eligible to enroll for the 2014-15 academic year, said MSUSD superintendent Kathi Emerson.

Strawberry Valley School students learn all the same common core standards as others in the MSUSD, but in a more thematic and hands-on way, said Tinsman and May. Rigorous content is differentiated based on grade level, ability and learning styles.

Learning is generally more independent and conducted in small multi-age groups. Most projects are integrated with other subject areas. Currently, the classes are learning all about water, and most of their curriculum is focused on this topic one way or another.

Students are often grouped with their own grade level, but spend time each week in a multi-age setting. Such settings, the teachers said, model the real world and benefit both the older and younger children.

Parents play a big role in the program, and volunteering in some capacity is encouraged.

Over the course of the pilot year, the school has taken field trips to several local plays, Shasta Dam, Horse Camp and Castle Lake. The have trout in the classroom for observation and have studied master artists. They do parent-led activities, including weaving, painting, science centers and chess. They work regularly in the pottery studio and are doing the play Annie with Sisson’s music director, Fred Wichmann.

“It is wonderful to see what was our vision become a reality,” said Tinsman.

Students currently enrolled come from within the district and SVS has attracted new families and students which would otherwise have enrolled in charter school, the teachers said.

Current enrollment is 42 students. If requests for enrollment next year exceed spaces, a lottery system will be used to ensure fair access.

Some integration

All 4-5 grade students will are able to take advantage of Sisson’s music and sports programs. Fourth and fifth graders eat lunch and have lunch recess periodically with the other Sisson students.

Second and third graders eat and play outdoors on a separate schedule. Age-appropriate playground equipment has been installed at the Sisson campus for the younger children to enjoy.

Funding and logistics

The two classes are a part of the MSUSD system and are funded the same way as other classrooms. The teachers will have access to the same budgets as other teachers.

Families will not be charged any extra fees to enroll in the program.

Requests for enrollment are due to the school or district office by 4 p.m. on Friday, April 11. If necessary, a lotter will be held on April 25.

If you are interested in scheduling a time for observation or have questions about Strawberry Valley School, go to the District Office near the Mount Shasta Library or call (530) 926-6007.

You can also check out the school’s blog at