Middle School Academy

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The MSA experience

MSA is an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) Program.   Students are part of an academically focused middle school that has block scheduling to provide time for deeper learning and exploration, teachers who team together to create units of learning that complement the core subjects of math, ELA, science, and social studies, once a month field trips that provide hands-on learning opportunities, and on-campus requirements that are not full day, every day.

MSA Mission

The Olympia Regional Learning Academy provides a unique learning environment with high academic standards. Staff and families collaborate to provide a safe and supportive community where students are valued as individuals. Through diverse and innovative educational opportunities, our students are empowered and prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Is MSA a Good Fit for Your Student and Family? These are Indicators:


  • Families who desire a different type of schedule for their students. Our ALE schedule allows students to have time during their days to pursue outside interests/passions.  
  • Students who personally desire a middle school environment rich in integrated subjects and with the opportunity for field experience.
  • Students who can complete 6+ hours of class extension work a week on average and turn work in on time.
  • Students with a commitment to organization and time management practice at home in addition to school.
  • Parents who commit to expecting class extension work be completed by their students and provide the structure/environment at home so this can be accomplished.
  • Parents who are committed to consistent attendance and on time arrival to school for their student.
    Parents who are willing to partner with MSA in the education of their students. 

Key Components of MSA 


  • Flexible Schedule
  • Longer work periods
  • Experiential learning opportunities
  • Integrated science, math and health
  • Integrated ELA and social studies
  • High engagement electives 
  • Schoolwide fine and performance art opportunities
  • Focus on study and organization skills

How Does MSA Work? 

Students enter MSA in their first year of middle school, 6th grade, and stay through their 8th grade year. All three grade levels learn together during integrated projects and field study work.  For core subject classes, MSA consists of two learning cohorts, 6th grade and 7th/8th grade groups. MSA teachers are responsible for team teaching the core subjects: science, language arts, social studies and math. Students will also take electives of their choice each semester.  Blending grades 6-8th builds a stronger community, provides opportunities for leadership, nurtures tolerance, and challenges students to work in diverse teams in preparation for high school and beyond.

Field Trip Fridays

Once a month students will participate in a field trip.  These field trips tie directly to the learning taking place in the MSA classrooms.  From field investigations, such as monitoring and harvesting our oyster garden on Johnson Point, to visiting the Wing Luke Museum to learn about the experience of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans throughout history, our students are able to see a direct relationship between their classroom studies and the world.

Parent Partnership 

Enrollment in ORLA is a choice to participate in a unique approach to learning. This commitment requires a healthy working partnership between the school and every parent.  MSA is based on the belief that parents have the right and the responsibility to be actively involved in their children’s education. 

A Parent Partnership program, such as MSA, requires commitment and involvement from families.  Timely response to academic progress reports, supporting your student’s learning and the completion of school work at home, helping to chaperone field trips, and maintaining open lines of communication with teachers, administration, and other parents to solve concerns are all expectations of this program. 

In addition, parents are required to assure their child regularly attends each school day, only missing due to emergency or illness. Students must be dropped off and picked up on time. Repeated tardiness and/or absences are not acceptable.

ORLA will provide a safe, positive, nurturing learning environment and program with an excellent team of educators. We will keep parents informed of their children’s learning progress, solicit needed and appropriate parent involvement in school and classroom activities, follow the school’s guidelines for open, direct communication, work together with each other, parents and students to solve concerns, and provide teachers with professional development and mentoring, thus striving for excellence and self-improvement.

Ensuring Success in MSA

Washington state has some unique requirements for those participating in an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program. The purpose is to ensure student success and demonstrate results quickly since a traditional school program may have already proven unsuccessful for a student. Through monthly progress reporting and implementation of intervention plans, ORLA strives to find solutions for all students.


Monthly Progress

Each month, teachers complete a progress report for students that determines whether they have made adequate monthly progress. Two-way communication regarding student progress is required and is completed in Skyward Family Access. Each month, caregivers will receive an email notification alerting that progress has been posted to Skyward. At that time, caregivers go in and acknowledge receipt for each enrolled student. Responses to progress are due within a certain number of days upon delivery so be sure to adhere to the due dates communicated each month.


Intervention Plans

Students not making adequate monthly progress will have a conference with ORLA staff and be placed on an intervention plan. This is a collaborative process between a caregiver, student, and ORLA staff member. It may include items such as increased onsite attendance, dropping a course, using a school planner, regular teacher check-ins, and more. These are designed to support students so they can be successful in the learning plan developed for them.

It is important to note that being on an intervention plan for multiple months may result in a student needing to transfer to another school program. Washington State limits the number of months in which a student does not make satisfactory progress in their coursework within Alternative Learning programs.

ORLA Activities 

MSA students participate in Olympia Regional Learning Academy activities including assemblies, theater, clubs and activity nights with all other ORLA students.


Families who are interested in MSA should visit the MSA Enrollment page and are invited to email our Dean of Students, Laura Herman, for more information. Her email is: [email protected].