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Kent ISD to close Kent Innovation High

While Kent ISD’s Kent Innovation High program will soon be phased out, officials are pleased to see that a number of area districts have implemented project-based learning programs or incorporated these practices into classrooms.

On May 18, the Kent ISD School Board approved the Kent Innovation High Transition Plan and announced that the school would not accept any ninth-grade students. Students currently enrolled in KIH will have the opportunity to complete the program.

According to a press release from Kent ISD, the program’s enrollment, which only averaged 250 students, was a factor in phasing out the program. Kent Innovation High is designed to have 400 students. 

Enrollment for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year was challenging due to schools being closed because of the governor’s executive order. Students normally sign up for programs such as Kent Innovation High and Kent Career Tech Center as they start to plan their upcoming high school year. But because school was closed during that time, Kent Innovation High was not able to host its spring open house to give prospective students and their families an opportunity to explore the facility and learn more about project-based learning. 

Students often worked as teams to solve problems

Started nine years ago in the 2011 – 2012 school year, Kent Innovation High focused on project-based learning (PBL), a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate or respond to a problem or challenge. An example would be taking an electric toy truck and determining how to make it more inclusive so any child may interact with it. 

“It was one of the first PBL programs in the state,” said Kent Innovation High Principal Jeff Bush. “It is unique in that it is the only school that I know of that brought students to a facility for their core classes and then took that back to their home school for the rest of their day.” About 850 students have completed the program since its inception. 

Because of the school’s innovation, Kent Innovation High was named a National Demonstration School in 2012 by New Tech Network, a nonprofit school development organization based in California that partners with districts and organizations to implement innovative schools.

Over the last several years, several school districts have implemented PBL including Rockford, Caledonia, Grand Rapids, and Forest Hills public schools. Other districts have explored or implemented it in classes, Bush noted. 

“The biggest impact (KIH) has had is with the students who come here and their families,” Bush said. “Talking to them, you discover just how important KIH has been to them.”

Kent Innovation High opened in 2011 as a project-based learning school
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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio or email Joanne.

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