COOS BAY — For some students, attending classes every day isn’t an option.
Back in 2003, the former superintendent for the Coos Bay School District saw that there were some students not attending school at all.
“Karen Gray wanted to re-engage families t hat didn’t want their kids going to a regular school due to medical situations where they couldn’t attend on a regular basis, or because of religious beliefs,” said current superintendent, Bryan Trendell. “She wanted to set up a program that could meet the needs of those families.”
That’s when she developed Resource Link, or A Link to Resource.
Though the program has moved locations throughout the district, it has settled in four classrooms in the second floor of the Harding Building. It is also one of the most unique charter schools around and is often used as an education model in other states.
It is also one that many tend to forget exists.
To remind the public and update the Coos Bay School District of its successes, lead teacher Leslie Traylor spoke with the school board during the last school board meeting in November. Several students gave testimony-like stories of how Resource Link has helped them when no other teachers or programs could.
“It’s a hybrid between homeschool and our district,” Trendell told The World. “It provides a good niche for those families that aren’t looking for traditional school.”
Right now it has 80 students spread across kindergarten through 12th grade.
“It is a charter school, they have their own board, write their own charter, but we as a district sponsor them,” Trendell said. “We provide space and administrative support. Their teachers are part of our district and union. They are very much connected with us, but also very much a charter. It’s very unique.”
Traylor joined the charter school six months after its creation when it was still mostly filled with homeschool families who needed academic support.
“It just so happens that a lot of those families are faith-based,” Traylor said. “Many are Jehovah Witness, some are Mormon. They want their children here for different reasons, sometime just so their students don’t have to be in large crowd environments. We also get a lot of mobile families and sick children where limited attendance works for them.”
Resource Link only requires students to attend class one hour a week. The rest of their education is often done at home, online, or at the Harding Building under the supervision of teachers, including Traylor.
“We don’t typically have classes, but block out time for seminar-like classes,” she said. “Because the one-on-one time is one hour a week, it doesn’t work unless you have a lot of support at home or are very self-motivated. I have kids come in to work at the school if they feel like it hasn’t worked to go home.”
Because the school is so small, Traylor and the teachers are able to develop close relationships with student families.
“Some kids who come here have been in every program in the district, some have struggled and had difficulties with the law,” she said. “What’s good about Resource Link is that it’s a flexible program. Many, many kids come to us with very low reading levels so they might have to stay a fifth year to get caught up and we’re okay with that too.”
Not only that, but Resource Link has received support from Bill and Melinda Gates because it is part of a small schools organization.
“It does meet the needs of a certain amount of families,” Trendell said. “It’s been good for our district and our students.”