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Former sixth-grade teacher Travis Franklin, 31, started the Academy, recruiting several former colleagues to the school. TIMOTHY PHILLIPS PHOTO

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14 INLANDER SEPTEMBER 3, 2015

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passersby to help them solve the inscrutable puzzle of opening their cardboard milk cartons. The first graders, already masters of the milkopening game, go straight for their Trix cereal. Eventually, the school will stretch through the eighth grade. But for now it’s just kindergarten, first and sixth grades. “We wanted to dive into middle school right away,” Franklin says. “Sixth grade is such a hard time in everyone’s life. It’s the worst time in a kid’s life to not be known.” He would know. He used to teach sixth grade at Shiloh Hills Elementary. Here, the middle-school-age kids are the student leaders of the Academy. They’re told they’ve been tasked with the sacred charge of helping the younger kids. As sixth-grader Isabela Cruz cleans up milk she spilled, the accident hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm. “I’m really excited that I get to learn more about other cultures and stuff,” Cruz says. “I’m really excited I get to learn Spanish. My dad is Puerto Rican, and he speaks Spanish. So I’m glad to be able to talk with him more.” Most students in Spokane won’t learn a word of Spanish before high school. But at Spokane International Academy, it’s possible for students to learn everything high school Spanish has to offer, through the accelerated online curriculum, before they hit ninth grade. Even in kindergarten teacher Sarah Morgan’s class, cutouts of colored paint splotches hang from the ceiling with words like “green” or “yellow” on one side, and “verde” or “amarillo” on the other. This is the “international” part of Spokane

International Academy. Though these students will still take the same standardized tests as the rest of Washington state, the school teaches the Cambridge curriculum taught in more than 160 countries. Flags of the world line the hallway at the entrance. There are students enrolled who were born in Spokane, but also from Nepal, India and Russia. Sixth-graders study ancient civilizations like Greece and Rome. Kindergarten’s all about North America, while first grade is all about South America. Paper vines hang down from the ceiling of teacher Aleisha Larsen’s first-grade classroom, and each table is given the name of a South American animal. “They will learn a different animal every month and a different country every month, and they’ll learn that through their five senses,” Larsen says. “I will have a guy bringing in a baby leopard, and they will smell it and pet it and touch it.”

L

arsen used to go to school here. Specifically, she once attended St. Patrick’s Catholic School in this building. But the Catholic diocese shuttered the century-old private school in 2013. It turned out to be the ideal spot for the Academy. Locating in the St. Patrick’s building put the charter school in the middle of Hillyard, a few blocks east of Rogers, the high school with the poorest population in Spokane. In this neighborhood, yellow weeds dominate lawns, paint chips off concrete porches and signs proclaim “BEWARE of DOG.” Green graffiti mars the crosswalk sign across from the Academy’s entrance. For Franklin, the founder, it’s perfect. Since

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