A group of educators and other professionals has filed a letter of intent with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to open a charter school in Scotland County next fall.
According to board member Shirley Foster, Waddell Elementary International Charter School ultimately aims to provide a STEM intensive education for students in the K-5 grades.
Waddell representatives will hold a public information and discussion session at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23 at the Clinton Inn on U.S. 15-501 South in Laurinburg. Interested parents and community members are welcome to attend.
“What we look at is bringing in a STEM program in the elementary level,” Foster said. “We believe if we bring our elementary students in at that level, we will produce the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that we need in the 21st century. We’ve had to go from steel mills and just working with your hands to thinking and producing and being critical thinkers, and we know that begins almost at birth. If you can begin working with a child at the kindergarten level, teachers can get them to use critical thinking.”
Waddell’s board members include area residents and natives spurred by Scotland County’s shortage of STEM options for younger students, including former N.C. A&T University associate vice chair for student affairs James Armstrong and Mary Goodwin, a teacher in Marlboro County, S.C.
Other board members include doctoral candidate Elizabeth Oxendine of Pembroke, former Guilford County Public Schools reading assistant Betty Jo Wilson of Greensboro, and retired Sandhills Community College sociology professor Bobby Allen of Laurinburg.
The board intends to submit an application to DPI in March. After an interview, DPI will approve or deny the application in July. If approved, the school could open as early as fall 2014.
This will be the second application made by the board to open a charter school in Scotland County. Waddell International Partners in Education applied last year to open charter schools in Scotland, Robeson, and Randolph counties, which would have opened this fall. Following the denial of that application, the board has narrowed their focus to Scotland County.
“We applied last year and didn’t get through the process,” Foster said. “This year we have a lot of mentors assisting us and we believe we will be able to get through.”
If approved, the school will begin by enrolling students in kindergarten, first, and second grade, with a particular focus on students considered at-risk. Each year a higher grade level will be added until it functions as a K-5 school, ultimately enrolling some 300 students.
Waddell’s curriculum, designed by its board, will be a “Blended Curriculum” of Common Core State Standards, technology education, and project-based learning, said Foster. Each student will also participate in a Spanish immersion period during the regular school day.
“We will take STEM and create art and music, so it’s a different kind of curriculum,” she said. “Instead of lesson plans, we use curriculum mapping. Instead of asking the teacher for a lesson plan every week, in the beginning of the year we go on a retreat where we create a map of the curriculum that everyone will follow. It’s electronic and it’s in real time. If a student is having a problem, I know it that day, not nine weeks later.”