Common Questions (FAQ)

Could you tell me more about Choice schools?

Choice schools are optional schooling alternatives, created to meet specific needs and interests. They are designed to be smaller and use innovative approaches to education that are different from traditional public schools. Choice schools focus on educational formats such as:

· hands-on and project-based learning

· multi-age classes

· integrated curriculum

Choice schools are community and staff initiated schools that operate within the Lake Washington School District. A set of guiding principles directs the process of planning and managing a choice school. See:


http://www.lwsd.org/schools/choice-schools for more details.


How is Explorer different?

Parent volunteers are an integral part of our school culture. Our teachers plan their classroom time knowing they will have that support.

Through teacher and parent effort, Explorer provides several enrichment opportunities such as: Friday Choice, Explorations, Passport Club and field trips.

Classes average about a field trip per month to support and enrich the classroom curriculum. Parent volunteers drive students to and from their field trip destinations and chaperone them while they are there. Parent volunteers, assigned for each class, plan and coordinate all of the field trip details.

We have a community environment and get to know each other well. Students often have the same teacher for two years and are a part of a multi-age classroom. Students of all grades interact with each other during a designated one hour block of time weekly (Explorer Time) and also during special projects and events.

What does Explorer use for a curriculum?

The curriculum is the same Lake Washington School District curriculum that your child will receive at their neighborhood school.

Are the classroom sizes small at Explorer?

Our total school enrollment is smaller (around 72 students), but our classroom ratios are the same as your neighborhood school.

What is the relationship to Dickinson Elementary?

Explorer is located on the same campus as Dickinson Elementary. We share their principal and office staff and benefit from the use of their building and all PTSA activities. Dickinson staff, students and the PTSA warmly welcome our children, teachers and parents. Many Explorer parents volunteer their time and financial resources to benefit the greater Dickinson/Explorer community. For example, they may volunteer for hearing/vision testing, serve on the Dickinson PTSA board, help with theater productions, etc.

What are the opportunities to be involved in PTSA and PTSA funded programs?

Families at Explorer are invited to join the Dickinson/Explorer PTSA and the majority of them do. All activities offered by the PTSA (after school clubs, theatre, arts, choir, etc.) are options for our students to join as well.

Can my child participate in band or orchestra?


Band meets in the mornings before school at Evergreen Middle School next door to the Explorer campus. See http://ems.lwsd.org/activities/elementary-bands for the most up to date information.

Orchestra meets before school in the Dickinson commons area. The meeting schedule will come out soon after school begins. See

https://www.lwsd.org/programs-and-services/elementary-band-and-orchestra for the most up to date information.


What is my role as a parent volunteer in the classroom?

Your role as a parent volunteer consists of providing support to the teachers so they may better educate our children. The teachers provide guidance for what they would like each volunteer to do. Volunteer duties may consist of activities such as clerical duties (copying, correcting), leading a small math or reading group, or working one-on-one with children. Managing a multi-age classroom and many parent volunteers requires an incredible amount of organization and patience from our teachers so we are always cognizant of our teachers’ needs and wishes.


What should my family expect as far as a time commitment to Explorer?

Our school is able to do many enrichment activities because of parent volunteer hours. 

An average of two hours per week is typical per family. Families with more than one child in the school are encouraged to contribute more so that the teacher still has the necessary adult support.

Families contribute these hours through:

  • Direct classroom support
  • Monthly parent association meetings
  • Committee work
  • Field trip transportation and chaperoning
  • Enrichment programs (Friday Choice, Explorations, Passport....)

If you are unable to volunteer in the classroom, other opportunities to support the school are available.

What kind of volunteer work is there to do?
Parent participation includes the following:

  • Tutor individual students
  • Serve on the school Steering Committee
  • Work with small groups of students
  • Offer your special talents or skills, such as music, art or foreign language
  • Plan and teach a Friday Choice/Exploration activity
  • Chaperone and drive on field trips
  • Assist in the classroom as needed
  • Assist the teacher as necessary with copying, filing, correcting papers, etc.
  • Test for Passport Club (geography)
  • Participate in committee work (For more information on committees, go to the Explorer website and click Committees under the For Parents menu option)
  • Assist with production or do committee work from home.

Does our neighborhood/home school need to be Emily Dickinson?
No. Explorer Community School enrollment is open to any family that lives in the Lake Washington School District.

If I have a child already in another elementary school, can we still apply?
Yes. Applications are accepted during the enrollment period for children entering grades 1 through 5.

Does Explorer operate on the same time schedule as Emily Dickinson?
No. The Explorer start time is 9:05 a.m. with classrooms opening by 9:00 a.m. Dismissal is at 3:35 p.m. daily except for Wednesday which is dismissed at 2:05 p.m. Half-day dismissal (for conferences, etc.) is at 12:05 p.m.

Is transportation provided to and from school?

As per district policy, parents/guardians who attend choice schools or programs must arrange their own transportation. Many families establish carpools. 

Are there any extra costs for parents?
Explorer Community School is a Lake Washington School District school, run with district funds. The Explorer Parent Association is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) group which exists to provide further resources for Explorer Community School.

The Explorer Parent Association's primary source of income is annual contributions. An annual donation of $150.00 per student is encouraged. The Association also relies on corporate matching and fundraising. This money is used to fund things such as field trips, family camp, school events, speakers, and classroom materials.

Financial assistance is available as needed. We believe that financial concerns should never be a barrier to families joining our school.

Does the school offer any after school child-care options?
Dickinson/Explorer is working with the Sammamish YCMA this year to provide an after-school enrichment program on our campus. The programs are open to all students grades K-5. Please call them at 425-644-8417 for more details.

How does the enrollment lottery work?

Applications are submitted online directly to the district. Each student is assigned a lottery number and is offered a spot according to how many openings we have available. From there, a waitlist is created. We fill openings from that waitlist. Students applying for grades 2-5 will go to the bottom of any current waitlist we have for those grades.

When will I hear back from Explorer regarding enrollment?

Lake Washington School District sets an enrollment timeline that all Choice schools follow. It varies slightly from year to year. Applications are due mid-December, and the lottery held in January. Notification letters are sent out in mid-January and the acceptance deadline is near the end of January. At this time, we will tour the top 10 students on each waitlist for grades 2-5 so that those families can make an educated decision should a spot open up.

Why are the tours conducted for waitlisted families?

Accepting a spot at Explorer is a big commitment and we want each family to be as educated in their choice as possible. Tours are important for waitlisted families because changes could occur in our classrooms or school at any time. Waitlisted families must also re-confirm their commitment to the school annually. 

Can I talk with the teachers?

We provide the Information Night and the school tour as opportunities to learn about our school and provide answers to your questions. Unfortunately the teachers do not have the time to take individual meetings or respond to emails or phone calls. Questions can be directed to our enrollment email (explorer-enroll@hotmail.com) or phone number 425-936-2533.

If we have one child in Explorer, are younger siblings automatically accepted?
Most likely. This is referred to as sibling preference and is initiated only during the lottery into first grade. If a student entering the 1st grade has a sibling in grades 2, 3, 4, or 5, the student will be admitted under the sibling preference policy. If the number of 1st graders with older siblings in the school exceeds the number of slots available to 1st graders, a waiting list will be established.


How does registration work when applying for twins?

For families with twins or multiple siblings, each student must enter the lottery as an individual and each student will receive an individual lottery number. There is no guarantee that twin/multiple siblings will receive admittance into Explorer. However, due to the elementary sibling preference policy should one twin/multiple sibling be admitted via sibling preference or lottery into the 1st grade, the other twin/multiple sibling will also be accepted, provided there is space available, (i.e. provided that the first twin/multiple sibling did not receive the last spot via lottery). If no spots are available, they will be at the top of the waitlist. For example, if there are 6 openings and twin 1 gets spot 5, then twin 2 will get spot 6. If twin 1 receives spot 6 (the last opening), then twin 2 will be the first on the waitlist.

What are my kindergarten options for my Explorer student’s younger siblings?

Families enrolled at Explorer Community School must enroll their kindergartener at their home school. Explorer families wishing to enroll a sibling in the half-day kindergarten program at Emily Dickinson will need to apply for a variance which may or may not be approved due to kindergarten numbers. If a variance is not approved, the student will be placed on waitlist.

Can my child participate in pull-out Quest if they are a student at Explorer?


If my child accepts an Explorer spot, can they stay on the waitlist for full time Quest?

Yes, this is Lake Washington School District policy. However, if you are on the Explorer waitlist and accept a full-time Quest spot, then you will be removed from our waitlist.

Can my student remain on more than one Choice school waitlist?

You may remain on more than one waitlist but once you accept a spot at one of the Choice schools (Community School, Discovery School, Explorer Community) your name will be removed from the other schools’ waitlists.

What are the primary modes of school communication?

  • Explorer Parent website & Email distribution list via Shutterfly.com
  • Teacher Microsoft Teams pages
  • Weekly email newsletter
  • Teacher emails
  • Monthly parent meeting


I see there are two different classroom possibilities for 2nd grade. When will the classroom assignments be announced and how are those placements decided?

The teachers will announce the 2nd grade class assignments in late June. Usually an email is sent out after the end of the school day on the last day of school.

Second grade placements at Explorer are determined using the same factors that every other elementary school uses when putting together class rosters. Those factors include: balanced gender across grade level, academic abilities, social/emotional needs, general behavior and work habits.

How is math taught at Explorer?

Math is a subject that teachers break classes out by grade level for instruction. Some aspects of math are taught to the multi-age group, but the majority of the instruction is by grade level. Explorer adheres to the Lake Washington School District curriculum.

How is science taught at Explorer?

Science is taught to the whole class in the multi-age classroom. The teachers alternate grade-level curriculum so that students receive the benefits of all curriculum that is offered. For example, the 4th/5th grade class will do the 4th grade curriculum one year and then the 5th grade curriculum the 2nd year. The end result is that students will have the opportunity to learn the entire science curriculum, but the units may be taught during a different school grade had they attended their neighborhood school.

Is Explorer a nut-free environment?

Not officially, though we take all student’s allergies and dietary concerns into consideration as we operate the school and plan for special events and programs.