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Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Oct. 3, 2023

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Ridgefield opens online classes to students anywhere in state

Alternative program part of district’s goal to provide learning options

By , Columbian staff writer

Ahead of its second year of operation, the Ridgefield School District’s Wisdom Ridge Academy, an online alternative learning experience, announced it’s expanding to accept new students from anywhere in Washington.

Previously, only students from within Ridgefield’s boundaries and select neighboring districts were able to apply for the academy, which supported about 100 students as of the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

The expansion is part of the district’s goal to provide a variety of educational experiences, particularly following some students’ success in remote learning in recent years.

“There is an advantage to having online programs like this,” said Allen Andringa, the new director of alternative learning experiences and business partnerships at Wisdom Ridge Academy. “It frees up classroom space, and students can continue working and learning at home.”

Andringa, who previously worked as an assistant principal at Ridgefield High School for nine years, was two days away from his scheduled retirement when he learned the position became available.

“I knew I wasn’t ready; I like to joke that my retirement actually lasted minus-two days,” he said.

“I grew up in a small community, there were just 39 students in my graduating class,” Andringa said. “I like the idea of working in an intimate setting; you can get to know your teachers better. It was attractive to me to do something on a more intimate scale.”

Teachers work in-house at Wisdom Ridge’s brick-and-mortar location in Ridgefield and are available to do one-on-one tutoring with students throughout the day or during designated office hours, similar to how many colleges operate. Ninety-minute “enrichment sessions” provide student-to-student interactions on group projects and exercises in social emotional learning, as well.

Wisdom Ridge students are required to meet all of the same academic standards and complete the same credits for graduation as other students in Washington. A packaged curriculum with all necessary materials provided by the district allows participating students to move through curricula at their own pace and without specific time frames for classes.

Students are able to partially enroll in part-time learning programs elsewhere in the district and region, such as Running Start and Cascadia Tech Academy. They are also able to participate in in-person extracurricular activities, such as band, drama and athletics at Ridgefield High School and View Ridge Middle School.

Though the possibility for freeing up space isn’t the primary goal for Ridgefield, where student population has rapidly grown in recent years, Andringa hopes the concept can appeal to students who flourished in the fully online 2020-2021 school year.

“I’m all for options to get a solid education. My hope is that this will be around for as long as Ridgefield is,” Andringa said. “I think the vast majority of communities will continue to get their education in a traditional sense — but some will go elsewhere. And I believe (alternative learning experiences) will play a big role in that.”

All current students enrolled in the Ridgefield School District are eligible to enroll, as are choice transfers from outside the district. For those interested in finding more information or learning how to apply, go to https://ridgefieldwa.sites.thrillshare.com/o/wra/page/enrollment.