Frequently Asked Questions

 

Are all the teachers certified?

 

Yes, all are certified and several have Master's Degrees.

 

What makes West Branch School special?

 

It is truly a family school. It is a developmental, functional, child-centered community, providing children with the social and emotional support vital to academic learning. It is a safe and happy place to learn.

Is the school licensed?

 

Yes, the school is licensed for grades K through 8 by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and has been since it was founded in 1971.

What is the student-teacher ratio?

 

10:1 (although this varies slightly from year to year)

How many students does the school enroll?

 

Our school can enroll up to 55, but each year varies.

What grades does the school offer?

 

West Branch School is licensed for Kindergarten through eighth grades. Children may enter West Branch School at any time between Kindergarten and sixth grades. Families wanting their child to attend West Branch School for the seventh and eighth grade years must petition the school body after the teachers reach a positive consensus.

Does West Branch School offer a full-day kindergarten?

 

Yes. Children must be 4 years 7 months old by September 1st of the enrollment year. A visitation and an assessment of readiness are both required.

What are the hours?

 

School begins at 8:45 a.m. Students are asked to arrive at 8:30 a.m. to participate in morning activity. Before school care is available beginning at 8 a.m. for a minimal fee. School ends at 3:00 p.m., and students should be picked up no later than 3:30 p.m., unless participating in our after school program, also available for a minimal fee.

Is there an After School/Before school program?

 

There is a program of after school activities from 3:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m. every school day. It is available to children who attend West Branch School. Before school care is from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

How does the calendar compare with that of the public school?

 

It's very similar, and the number of school days is the same.

Is busing available?

 

Yes. Students whose parents request it are bused from Williamsport and contiguous districts with some restrictions.

Are the children divided into classes by grade, as in the public schools?

 

No, not really. As a rule, children working at Kindergarten through second grade levels meet Downstairs, and children working at grades third through sixth grade levels meet Upstairs. The two large groups are frequently subdivided into skill groups and project groups of various sizes, depending on curricular need. Important are such factors as reading ability, social and emotional maturity, special interest, and group dynamics. It is also recognized that a single child might be operating at very different skill levels in different subjects or project areas.

How large are the skill groups?

 

Generally 6-11. (Skill groups are small, academically oriented groups.)

How does the school meet the needs of children ahead of or behind grade level?

 

Partly by placing them in appropriate groups and partly by individualizing. The school enrolls a very wide range of children, but with its small teacher/student ratio, the school has no need to teach to the middle. The teachers work with each child for three or four years, therefore are familiar with each child's unique learning style. This enhances group placement. Those who need additional tutorial help in reading or math receive it through the Blast Intermediate Unit 17. Also, we have the extra welcomed help from volunteers, teachers' aides, and student interns. Teachers also spend individual time with students during breaks and after school.

What is a typical day like?

 

West Branch School offers tremendous variety in its days relative to the traditional school setting. We build flexibility into the program in order to grasp wonderful teaching moments and experiences. This requires intricate planning and significant over structure, in which students can anticipate, help plan, and implement their activities.

 

For both Upstairs and Downstairs, the day starts with a morning meeting-circle time for sharing, music, discussion of current events, and generally settling into the day. Students may take turns facilitating the meeting. We follow the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting Model. After meeting, students break into smaller groups for more specific instructions and guidance. Frequently, this involves moving from teacher to teacher, but it also includes independent study, individual student/teacher conferencing, team project work, and study group activity.

 

During the noon-hour, students eat a lunch brought from home, or they eat pizza ordered through an Upstairs fundraising project. Recreation and free choice follows lunch, and students play or work on school projects that are always in process.

 

Afternoons are varied. They may include music, art, physical education (students go to the YMCA weekly during the winter), science experiments, curricular games, and drama (as part of the curriculum, both Downstairs and Upstairs put on annual plays). The day ends with assigned clean up chores.

What educational resources does the school have?

 

We have an impressively extensive library, a good selection of educational games, toys, math manipulatives, science kits, etc. Our computer labs with both Mac and PC platforms grow yearly, and we are connected to the Internet. We have a great selection of software for our students. Students begin using computers in Kindergarten. Keyboarding is taught throughout the school experience.

What role do field trips play?

 

They are a major part of our hands-on approach to learning. Frequent and varied, they range from local half-day jaunts for the younger children to more extensive, multi-day excursions for the older ones.

What role do field trips play?

 

They are a major part of our hands-on approach to learning. Frequent and varied, they range from local half-day jaunts for the younger children to more extensive, multi-day excursions for the older ones.

What kinds of families send their children to the school?

 

West Branch families come from diverse political, religious, socio-economic, and philosophical backgrounds, but all have in common a strong commitment to the quality of their child's education and a desire to be involved.

How is the school governed?

 

The parents and teachers operate West Branch School. The Governance Committee (comprised of parents, teachers and alumni) makes decisions affecting the day-to-day operation of the school. These meetings are held monthly and are open to all parents.

How much time would I have to commit?

 

West Branch School is a parent/teacher run organization. Parents can volunteer as much time as they would like. West Branch School has offered more options than ever to parents in terms of time commitment.

 

Parents can volunteer as much time as they would like, but are required to sign up for several cleanings and or teacher coverages per school year (often about 6). A teacher coverage is a time when two parents plan and teach a curriculum-based project to the students during the hours of 1 pm to 3 pm. These generally occur once a month. Teacher coverages are considered to be a valuable part of the curriculum, and parents can always get ideas from the teachers or other parents. This is a great time for parents to share their talents and interests with the students. Parents are also required to attend three workdays per year. This is a community effort to spruce up the school and usually involves about six hours per family per work weekend.

 

Committees are essential to the operation of the school. These may include: admissions, fundraising, advertising, etc. Each family is expected to serve on at least one committee. All families must participate in our annual Fair: our largest fundraiser as well as a fun, all-school event.

 

There is a "Buy-Out" option for parents who would prefer to pay a fee in lieu of Teacher Coverage and Cleaning duties. Please ask for details.

Does the school give grades?

 

Children of fifth grade age and above receive report cards, though parents of younger Upstairs children may request them. Special requests are honored at all times.

Then how would I keep track of my child's progress?

 

Communication between teachers and parents is a cornerstone of West Branch School education. There are three scheduled conferences per year. At the third, the teachers discuss the results of your child's national standardized tests. All West Branch students take these tests each year. In addition, teachers or parents can schedule informal conferences at any time. West Branch teachers encourage ongoing communication with parents.

How does the school handle discipline?

 

We work consistently at helping the children develop social and emotional maturity. When there are conflicts, they are addressed immediately. In a small meeting, the children meet with a facilitator (generally a teacher, but sometimes another child), take turns explaining their personal perspectives of the issue, and try to work out solutions. In cases of persistent misbehavior, we use a time to "stop and think" about choices and behavior and family consultation. Our objective is to help children internalize discipline. Bullying and abusive behavior is not tolerated at West Branch School.

What else could I do for the school if I wanted to?

 

Practically anything! Drive on field trips, teach (anything from a one-day to an all-year class), read with students, serve on additional committees, serve as an officer, be a resource person, or even contribute financially. For some parents, the school is a central part of their lives.

How do West Branch graduates handle the transition to public school?

 

As a result of both formal and informal research carried out by teachers and parents at various times, we can say confidently that, in almost every case, they handle the transition very well. Our graduates tend to be quite prepared with a good academic background, a lot of experience in social problem solving, on-going contact with children of all ages and strong self-esteem. The result is that they usually adapt readily to new situations. They are quite routinely placed in honors classes in the middle schools.

How much does a West Branch School education cost?

 

Money for salaries and operational expenses comes from tuition payments and fundraising activities conducted by the parents. Please contact our operations manager at 570-323-5498 regarding current tuition and tuition assistance opportunities, or check out our tuition assistance page here.

If I might be interested in enrolling my child(ren) at West Branch, what is the next step?

 

Contact the school by calling 570-323-5498. We'll set up a mutually convenient time for a tour of the school. Then, you can observe the facilities and classes, meet teachers and children, and get answers to any additional questions you might have. We'd also like to have your child visit the school for a day.

What if I'm ready to apply?

 

That's great! Fill out our simple application & parent questionnaire found here.

All students are eligible for admission without regard to sex, race, or economic, social, or religious background.

 

Decisions for admission are made on a rolling basis, as long as space is available. Admission is not automatic. Sometimes, the school as a whole or a particular grade level fills to capacity, and then, interested families are placed on a waiting list.

 

All students are admitted for a six-week probationary period. If, during that time, it becomes clear to us that the school is not able to meet the needs of the child, the family will be asked to withdraw. This would be an extremely unusual occurrence, however. Space permitting and assuming no disqualifying problems have been identified, families able and willing to meet financial obligations and willing to commit their fair share of time and effort to the school can count on a warm West Branch welcome.

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