by Jack Russillo
From time immemorial, people living around the Duwamish River — where today’s city of Seattle has spread out from — have been heavily linked with the sea.
In September 2021, a new public Maritime High School will open its doors to give Seattle-area youth an opportunity to focus their education on the sea and other marine topics. On Monday, Jan. 11, the opening of Maritime High School was announced at a virtual press conference by partnering organizations Highline Public Schools, the Port of Seattle, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and the Northwest Maritime Center.
“This is an exciting day,” said Susan Enfield, the superintendent of Highline Public Schools, at the virtual press conference. “We are thrilled to be announcing our plans to open our Maritime High School this fall in Highline. … We know that the maritime industry is huge in our region, and we want our students to be exposed to all the rich opportunities that exist for them in that field. This high school represents a really unique opportunity to partner with community and industry in really creating a learning pathway for students that leads to a meaningful career and, in turn, make our region and local economy all the stronger.”
Once open, the school will provide pathways for regional students to gain an understanding of the natural world, increase their competency in practical skills, and develop a greater awareness of career options centered on the sea and beyond. The curriculum will center on the environment, marine science, and maritime careers, including maritime construction, vessel operations, and other occupations working on or near the water. A typical week at Maritime High School may include time in the classroom, virtual instruction from home, field experiences, and boat-based learning.
This fall, Maritime High School will be temporarily housed at the Olympic Interim Site, 615 200th Street in Des Moines. A permanent location that has not yet been decided on will eventually be located somewhere in South King County.
In addition to project-based learning, the school will facilitate maritime industry partnerships that will provide the students with mentorships and internships to foster interest and build skills that can help them take advantage of the region’s maritime business opportunities. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to go directly into the maritime workforce, and they will also have the tools to apply for and attend a two- or four-year college or university.
Applications are now open and will close on Jan. 31 at 11 p.m.
“The goal of this isn’t to have everyone become a tugboat captain,” said Jake Beattie, executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center, at the press conference. “But it is likely that with greater awareness of an industry and opportunities, what we’ve seen is increased numbers of students opting into that. So they get a great education that’s informed by the world around them and these compelling experiences of the sea, and then a higher-than-normal percentage of them — just because of awareness of great opportunities — choose to go that direction.”
Superintendent Enfield appointed Tremain Holloway as the principal of the school. Holloway is currently co-principal of Highline High School and previously served as assistant principal at Raisbeck Aviation High School, a well-regarded regional high school also administered by Highline and supported by the Port of Seattle.
“The equity, diversity, and inclusion piece is really the keystone to the whole project,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins. “The experience of Highline Public Schools and bringing in a strong leader in Principal Holloway to keep that as our north star is really essential to keeping the long term success of this high school.”
The school is part of the Highline Public Schools system, so there will be no tuition for students. Although there is an application process, applicants will be accepted on a lottery basis. Students applying will be required to write an essay that expresses their interest in the program, but those essays will not be evaluated as a part of the selection process. While there will be no formal interviews or recommendations required, there will be a conversation where families can discuss their interest in the school with administrators.
Students not accepted in the lottery will be placed on a waitlist in the order they are chosen from the pool of remaining students. Up to 45 ninth grade students will be selected for this first year, while subsequent years will bring in up to 100 ninth graders per year. If there are more seats available than there are applicants, applications will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. The lottery will take place on March 1 and results will be posted online on March 3.
There will be information sessions held in Spanish and English, as well as additional languages available on request. Details on the sessions and more information can be found on the Maritime High School website.
“Today, I am really excited to see a dream come true, a dream that many youth in the Duwamish Valley have hoped for,” said Magdalena Angel-Cano, community engagement and communications specialist for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition. “A maritime high school was actually requested from many of our youth in the Duwamish Valley, and today we’re seeing that happen, so this fills my heart with a lot of excitement. It not only brings education opportunities to our youth, but it also brings a lot of empowerment to the whole community.”
The concept for the Maritime High School gained support in late 2019 and, despite the impacts of the coronavirus, local industry and education leaders recognized the importance of the benefits that the school could have on local youth, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local industry and education leaders realized that specialized maritime industry education could help meet both the future workforce needs of the region’s globally recognized maritime industry, as well as the need for high-paying career opportunities in underserved communities.
The Port unanimously passed a motion March 10 to throw its weight behind the school and, in January 2020, supporters published A Changing Tide: A Strategic Plan for Maritime and Ocean Sciences High School in Greater Seattle. Highline Public Schools was chosen as the leading educational entity for the project, and it established a task force to move the project forward, guided by a design team of industry partners and informed by a broader advisory team. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition served as a community engagement liaison and provided insight into the diverse Duwamish Valley communities while the Northwest Maritime Center supplied guidance related to maritime education and fundraising support.
“It’s often forgotten that since time began, the story of this place … is impossible to tell without talking about our relationship to the sea,” said Beattie. “For the millenia prior to the time of first [European] contact, all the way to today, where Seattle and the region have a significant dependence on the saltwater for industry and recreation. Not to mention that the problems of the ocean are existential to us as a species. So, for all of those problems and all that promise and all that connection, a school that uses all of that as a way to compel learning and creates those lightbulb moments, creating productive, connected, transformative citizens; I don’t think it gets any better than that. I personally couldn’t be more inspired.”
Featured Image: Maritime High School students will see many in-the-field learning opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Highline Public Schools)
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