August 2021 Newsletter: Heading back to school

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Washington state school district administrators, teachers and families are preparing for the return to classrooms this August and September with unique challenges ahead of them. This month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Washington State Initiative team is “passing the mic” to Karen Lobos, the executive director of Rainier Prep, a public charter middle school in the Highline area, to share her perspective as a school leader. Karen brings her experience as the daughter of Latinx immigrants and a first-generation college graduate to her work providing educational opportunities at one of Washington state’s first charter schools.

Thank you for your partnership,

Your Gates Washington State team

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“As we return to full-time in-person learning in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, I know that the start of this school year is stirring many feelings for educators, students, and families. Some of us might be relieved as we anticipate a new sense of normalcy and routine. Many of us are still grieving, processing, and adjusting. As we enter the 2021-2022 school year, we at Rainier Prep are taking advantage of the opportunity this pandemic has offered to re-imagine what a relevant and excellent education for our students looks and feels like in our current context.”

“Every year we kick off with August Family Meetings, the beginning of a key family and school partnership where each student and family will be able to meet their teacher-advisor for the school year. After a year of isolation for many, we are very excited that these foundational and irreplicable connections will be taking place in-person!”

“We will build robots, read and analyze novels from around the world, question who gets to write history and how, create explosive and messy science experiments, work collaboratively across grade levels on portfolio projects, and build strong friendships in our advisory groups.”

“Recognizing that the ongoing pandemic is disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities, we are cautiously excited to be able to do all of this beautiful learning in-person, at 3 feet apart, and with plenty of hand sanitizer to go around. We are confident that the Rainier Prep community we build together this year can provide support, hope, joy, strength and growth for all of our students, families, and staff.”

“Personally, I am excited to begin my journey as the executive director of an organization in the community that raised me. The hopes and dreams of Rainier Prep families remind me of my own immigrant family’s hopes and dreams for me, their first-gen Latinx daughter. As I reflect on my own journey, I’m also looking forward to watching the journey of our founding 6th grade students who are starting their senior year of high school and will be applying to colleges this fall. Despite inequitable funding and countless constraints, we have always sought to be a school where each child is known well, all students are challenged, curiosity is cultivated and foundational academic and leadership skills are fostered for success in college and life. I am proud to witness the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise in our soon to be college students.”

Karen Lobos, MPA
Executive Director
Rainier Prep

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