Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald



David and Stephanie Spaugh are making the most of the educational options available to their children through the Baker School District.

Their 15-year-year-old daughter, Sarah, is enrolled in the Baker Early College program and their son, Benton, 13, is taking classes as an eighth-grader through Baker Web Academy, charter schools sponsored by the Baker School District.

For their 5-year-old, Katie, the Spaughs have opted for the traditional kindergarten program, which is housed in the northwest wing of Baker High School.

The family's choices for their children were based on the individual needs of each, Stephanie said.

Sarah will begin studies in math and writing later this month through

Blue Mountain Community College and she plans to enroll in an online

physics course or history class through Chemeketa Community College at


She also plays piano in the BHS jazz band and is a member of the high

school's girls soccer team. Sarah traveled with the BHS teams to

Umatilla Thursday to play right midfielder in the Bulldogs' season

opener against the Vikings.

All Web Academy and Early College students are welcome to participate in any of the district's programs.

Benton, who also goes by Ben, and Katie also play soccer on team's

sponsored by the YMCA. And Sarah competed on Oregon's junior team of

the NRA's Youth Hunter Education Challenge, which won the national

competition in July at Raton, N.M.

This is Sarah's first year in the Early College program. Last year, she

and Ben both were enrolled in the Web Academy for the first time.

"It's a great program," Sarah said Thursday while visiting her younger sister's kindergarten class. "It's really fun."

(She and Ben filled in for Katie's grandparents, who live in Texas,

during Grandparent's Day in Melissa Garner's kindergarten classroom).

Sarah says she gets to experience the best of both worlds through the

high school classes she's taking and the Early College program she's

enrolled in this year.

"I like to challenge myself," she said.

"I can't wait to see what it's like," she said of the Early College program. "The whole program looks like a lot of fun."

Ben is just as enthusiastic about his studies at the Baker Web Academy.

"The staff are very nice and they're very helpful," he said, adding that he especially enjoys history and science classes.

"Those are fun and it's really great because the schedule is more

flexible," he said. "The panic of trying to catch up sometimes isn't as


And they are better able to set their own schedules for special events

such as family travel or the upcoming deer and elk hunting seasons,

Sarah said.

Not to be outdone, 5-year-old Katie, said she's also enjoying her public school experience.

"I like doing all the school stuff and it's really fun," she said. "I

like doing all he games at my school, too. I like doing everything."

The Spaughs moved to their home on Deer Creek Road in the McEwen area

six years ago from Wyoming, where David, 45, managed a bison ranch

while also working part time managing a medical device company.

They family moved to Baker County after falling in love with the area

on a drive through to Washington to visit relatives, Stephanie said.

David now manages the medical device company full time from their

Sumpter Valley home. And Stephanie, 43, is a stay-at-home mom. The

couple help educate their children with support from the Baker Charter


The first year the Spaughs lived in Baker County, Sarah and Ben

attended South Baker Elementary - Sarah as a fourth-grader and Ben as a


The Spaughs later opted to again home school their children, Stephanie said.

Since enrolling her older two in the Baker Web Academy and Early

College, she said she has gained an appreciation for the teacher

support and hands-on activities such as science labs and field trips.

Ben is studying the typical eighth-grade curriculum of math, English, science, social studies and Spanish.

Stephanie says working with the Web Academy has helped her son to

become more independent and to take on more responsibility for his


Her youngest is enjoying her half days in morning kindergarten classes,

which provide her with the opportunity to get to know other

5-year-olds, Stephanie said.

All three travel to school via a district-owned van that also takes

other children from the area to school daily. And they return home on

the van after the morning kindergarten session ends.

Sarah and Ben also attended a charter school program in Wyoming for a

time before going the home-school route when the 90-mile daily round

trip got to be too much, Stephanie said.

"We have not been a home-school family their whole lives. It's been a

mix of both," Stephanie said. "For them, we're either doing school at

home or doing school somewhere else."

Stephanie said she and her husband view the Baker Web Academy and Early

College programs as a great opportunity for their children.

"They are wonderful people to work with," Stephanie says of the staff.

"They are very excited and enthusiastic about helping your children out

and molding something around what they need.

"Right now the Web Academy is working really well for our family," she said.