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Christian learning center moving to Washougal

Hope Learning Center will offer classes for homeschooled students

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A Christian learning center that offers homeschooled students accredited educational services in classroom settings is moving to Washougal.

Located in Brush Prairie since its inception in 2008, the Hope Learning Center recently moved its elementary classes to the Bethel Community Church in Washougal, and plans to add middle-school and high-school classes at the Washougal church for the start of the 2023-24 school year.

“Our staff (members have been) working well together,” said Bethel’s lead pastor, Rich Blum. “It’s very symbiotic. If they need something, we look for a way to provide it. We’ve made it easier for them financially. It’s a partnership — we are two separate entities, but really, probably, in name only. We are working together very closely, and it’s going very, very well from my perspective.”

The Hope Learning Center, which has operated out of Hockinson Community Church in Brush Prairie since 2008, currently serves about 120 students, according to the center’s co-director, Erika Sagert.

“Space is the No. 1 reason (we’re moving),” Sagert said. “Bethel has more space for us to offer more classes. We’ve been wanting to expand (to provide services to) younger students, because for a long time we just had middle school and high school, and we had people asking for classes for younger students as well.”

Classes are taught with a “biblical worldview,” according to the center’s website.

“We definitely are a Christian organization, and we’re unashamedly faith-based,” Sagert said. “We look at our curriculum, I guess you could say, through the lens of biblical truth.”

Bethel leaders were already seeking ways to expand their educational offerings beyond their “Little Lamb” preschool when Hope Learning Center administrators approached them.

“We were definitely wanting to extend what we had in our preschool,” Blum said. “We didn’t want to have a full homeschool — we’re not even zoned to have a full school. That’s not what we’re doing. But this hybrid is something we’re interested in. We had people going through our preschool and kindergarten (asking) us to continue with more grades. We were thinking about adding a grade every year and doing something like what Hope Learning Center does anyway. (But we found) a group looking for a location, and we were the perfect location for them, and they have the perfect match for us.”

Blum had a personal connection to the learning center before it moved to Washougal.

“His children attended Hope Learning Center, so there was a connection,” Sagert said. “When (Blum’s children) were attending five years ago, I remember the mom saying, ‘If you ever need more classrooms, we have lots of classrooms at Bethel.’ It was just kind of a side comment. At the time, I was like, ‘No, we’re fine where we are.’ But then we (realized) that we were at capacity, and we wanted to be open to growth, and so we started to kind of think about it. One thing led to another, and here we are, moving to Washougal.”

Hope Learning Center is affiliated with Academy Northwest, a Woodinville, Washington, private school that offers “hybrid education” services to home-school students.

“What’s pretty unique (about us) is that we have an accredited portion of our program,” Sagert said. “Some universities are totally fine with a homeschool diploma, but there are those colleges that don’t really want to deal with that. But most surprising is that some trade schools require the accredited transcript diploma. I would think that universities would want it more, but really, it’s the trade schools — culinary, cosmetology, things like that. And also, the police force and some branches of the military really want to see either a GED (General Educational Development) degree or the accredited transcript.”

Hope Learning Center focuses on “core subjects” like math, English, science and history, but could expand its offerings in the future to include electives, according to Sagert.

“That’s where our heart is, to come alongside (the parents) and help with (the basics),” Sagert said. “A lot of times, parents can get out of their ‘comfort zone,’ especially when it comes to teaching high school science with the labs and all of that, so we’re able to help them with those. We use a variety of curriculums, and they all meet the educational standards of Washington state.”

Hope Learning Center students come to the church “one or two or three times per week” for their classes and work from home during the rest of the week, according to Sagert.

“We do call it a ‘hybrid,’” Sagert said. “We use Google Classroom to communicate with students and we provide them with the lesson and all of the homework, and then we grade everything and provide feedback. And we also offer tutoring as needed for any subject. If a student is struggling or if they are accelerated, we can tailor what we offer because we keep our class sizes small.”

That kind of flexibility makes Hope Learning Center unique, according to Blum.

“I like that you can pick and choose a lot of different things,” he said. “There are some things that you can do at home on your own, there’s some things you need help with, and they really give you a lot of options. There’s a lot of great programs out there, but (they have you learn) one way. Hope Learning Center really tailors (the learning experience) to the individual student and the individual family.”

The academy will hold an open house at Bethel Community Church, located at 1438 “B” Street, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, to provide information to prospective students and their families. For more information, visit hopelaerningctr.com, email hlcanw@gmail.coom or call 360-524-2238.