In late 2016, the long-awaited Quest Academy opened its doors to a handful of students in a newly renovated building in Longview. Several months later, the student body continues to grow as Director Dr. Sara Paul recruits and trains the teachers and staff to serve them. Quest currently has 22 students, ranging from preschool-aged all the way up to high school seniors. And the students couldn’t be happier.
“I love it,” says a high schooler who comes all the way from Ilwaco, Washington each day. “I love the staff, the students, basically everything.” He attends Quest through a boundary exception, traveling nearly 80 miles each way from the Ocean Beach School District.
Another student likes the uniqueness of the school and the fact that he gets to swim at the YMCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He isn’t afraid to share the various diagnoses that brought him to Quest, including autism, ADHD, a speech impediment and “anger issues.”
“Quest is a school for lots of different students,” says Sarah Long, Lead Behavior Coach. “It’s whatever students need it to be, especially those who need more one-on-one time.”
The ability to work individually with students is one big reason why the staff and teachers at Quest love their jobs. “We have the best students ever,” says Kassidy Parker, Life Skills Teacher, “I love getting to work so closely with each student and getting to know them so well.”
Elementary Teacher Kelly Wigen likes the challenge teaching at Quest brings and the impact she can have on each student. “We work hard to think outside the box, to be creative to meet kids where they’re at,” she says. “I think students come here sometimes with a negative view of school after having a series of bumps, and we get to help them develop a different picture—a picture where they can be a successful student and successful in life.”
Another reason the staff love Quest is the closeness of the team. “We have a great staff, and we do a really good job of working together and being all on the same page to support students,” says Jeremy Jones, Transition Specialist and Team Trainer.
That togetherness is undoubtedly what brought many of the staff members to Quest with Dr. Paul when she came from 49th Street Academy—a similar school in the Evergreen School District in Vancouver—where she was the director. ESD 112 called on Paul for advice when in the planning stages of Quest, and she jumped on the chance to be Director of the new facility in Cowlitz County where she grew up.
Quest benefits greatly from Paul’s experience with 49th Street Academy. Since she came on board during the planning stages, she had a great deal of input during the facility remodeling process. “I was able to replicate the features of 49th Street Academy that worked well and improve upon other things, like adding tiny ‘quiet rooms’ within the larger classrooms to help students work one-on-one with staff without distractions,” says Paul. She adds with a smile, “I already have notes for what I would change ‘next time’ too.”
The Quest facility, which features its own kitchen, gym, fenced yard and nurse’s office in addition to the numerous classrooms and quiet rooms has space to grow. As staff and teachers continue to be hired and trained, the school will open slots for more students from area schools.
To view a list of jobs open at Quest, click here. For more information, contact Quest at 360-261-6125.