Currently Whitethorn School has three teachers, teaching grades K-1, 2-3 and 4-6. All teachers are fully credentialed. Each classroom has a Title I instructional assistant for 3 hours per day. A resource specialist teacher and a speech therapist visit our school one day per week. A 5 hr/day instructional assistant provides support for resource and speech students on a daily basis. A school nurse visits the school approximately once per month. The principal is on-site half a day per week, and other times as needed.
Our school has a library with approximately 2000 volumes. The library is available to students most hours school is open; a library clerk helps students one day per week. A mobile lab of AlphaWriters serves as the center for learning keyboarding skills and allows students to work on reports and writing assignments at their desks. Each classroom has an internet-accessible computer.
Whitethorn School is a part of Southern Humboldt Unified District, which covers an area of 778 square miles—half the size of Rhode Island. Our district has four elementary schools with fewer than 70 students; an elementary school with 300 students; a high school with 300 students grades 8-12; and a K-12 alternative school.
Students come to Whitethorn School from an approximately 85 square mile attendance area. Rarely do students live close enough to walk to school. Most homes are scattered throughout the hills; the closest community is the ocean-front village of Shelter Cove, a thirty minute drive from our school. Approximately 20% of our students choose to attend Whitethorn School although they live in other attendance areas in our district.
Finding Employment is a challenge in this rural area. The timber industry, commercial fishing, ranching and farming have decreased each year for decades. Whitethorn School is one of the three largest employers. Other families work in the building trade, or for the county, state and federal government. Small-scale cottage industries such as fine arts, flower and produce farms, and vineyards/wineries are increasing. Some residents commute to Redway/Garberville for employment. Approximately 46 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, compared to 54 percent of students statewide. This figure might not reflect the true economic condition of our families, as some are reluctant to apply for government assistance.
Although there is little ethnic diversity among our school and population, and at this time we have no English Language learners, family cultures and values are varied—from traditional/ conservative to those who are self-reliant and distrustful of government. Approximately 39% of parents completed their education with high school graduation; 32% had some college; and 26% are college graduates.
About half of our parents are actively involved in our school, driving on field trips, working on special projects and volunteering in classrooms on a weekly basis. Almost all parents attend parent conferences. Friends of Whitethorn School, our parent association, raises around $25,000 per year—an amazing $500 per student— to fund music instruction, Aikido, drama, and other programs otherwise unavailable to our students.
Whitethorn School’s small size and family-like culture make it a choice school for many of our district’s students.