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MOUNT VERNON — Beginning this fall, high school students in Mount Vernon will have another option when it comes to their education.

The Mount Vernon School District’s Aspire Academy, which seeks to serve those who may do better outside the traditional high school model, will open this fall.

“The Mount Vernon School District has been interested in launching our own alternative learning option for students for a long time,” Superintendent Ismael Vivanco said. “We are excited that this will happen this year. It will provide additional options for serving the academic, emotional and social needs of our learners.”

With the opening of Aspire Academy, the Mount Vernon School District will discontinue its contract with Youthnet’s Emerson High School after this school year, said district Choice Schools Principal Joy Walton Kawasaki, who will oversee the academy.

According to its website, Emerson High School — now called Emerson Academy — is in the process of becoming a tuition-free charter school.

Aspire Academy, which will offer classes both in person and online, will serve students in grades 9-12, Walton Kawasaki said.

The hybrid model — in person and online — was the plan for the school even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spurred schools throughout the country to look at hybrid models when they reopen in the fall, Walton Kawasaki said.

The goal is for students, some of whom may have jobs or other responsibilities, to have as much flexibility as possible, she said.

“Our goal is to tailor and personalize the education as much as we can,” Walton Kawasaki said. “Not all students learn the same way.”

She said the school hopes to have 50 to 100 students enrolled in its first year, and by its third year 160 students.

Students will spend about half of each day at the school, where they can work in small groups or with teachers, she said. The rest of their schoolwork will be done on their own time and at their own pace.

“We all have our strengths,” Walton Kawasaki said. “So they can go faster where they can, slower where they need to.”

Much of the in-person learning will be teacher-directed project-based learning, she said.

“Things that are very hands-on, experiential will be a very big part of this,” Walton Kawasaki said.

The school will also have a focus on visual arts, including sculpture, painting, drawing and design, she said.

“(Art is) oftentimes a really good outlet for students to be able to express themselves,” Walton Kawasaki said. “We want to promote the creativity piece for students and opportunities for being creative.”

Students will also learn business and entrepreneurial skills, which can be beneficial no matter what the students do after high school, she said.

In the next few years, students will hopefully be able to participate in internships in the area, she said.

One of the first missions for the school’s inaugural class will be to choose the school’s colors and mascot, Walton Kawasaki said. A logo will follow.

For now, Aspire Academy is located in a temporary location on LaVenture Road, Walton Kawasaki said. It hopes to move to a more permanent location later in the fall.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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