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by DAVID IRVINE – www.hendersondispatch.com

Fifty people, including board members and some students, met in the Farm Bureau meeting room of H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library on Tuesday evening to learn more about Henderson Collegiate, the proposed charter school for Vance County.

Board Chair Nancy Jo Smith introduced Eric Sanchez, Henderson Collegiate School Planner, who sketched out the nature of the school. Henderson Collegiate will be a free public school that is open to all children. State funds will support the instructional program but not capital expenditures, he said. The board is raising funds from private sources to obtain a facility and to support transportation.

The school will focus its outreach on students from low-income families. However, students will be accepted regardless of family income. If fewer than 110 students apply, they will all be accepted. If more than 110 apply, a lottery will be held. The goal is for the student body to represent the population of Vance County Schools demographically.

The school plans to open next August with a fourth grade only, adding a grade each year until it contains grades four through eight. Questioned about what happens to the students after grade eight, Sanchez said the staff and the board hope to apply to the State Board of Education to extend the school through grade twelve. If that doesn’t happen, the school will offer follow-up as the students move to other schools.

Carice Cantelupe, co-founder of the school, described the curriculum and requirements students must meet. Most striking are the time requirements. Students at Henderson Collegiate will invest more time in learning than is typical for most schools. School hours Monday through Friday will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Friday the hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The school will also include a two-week session in August. Cantelupe said this adds up to 1,560 extra hours over grades four through eight, the equivalent of an extra one-and-a-quarter year that the students will have devoted to learning.

The “College-Prep Curriculum” of the school emphasizes reading, writing, math and nonfiction studies beginning in grade four; adds science in grades five and six; and history and beginning Spanish in grade seven. In grade eight, students will take Algebra I and Spanish I, subjects typically reserved for high school.

Sanchez showed a short video originally carried over WUNC-TV. It depicted students are Gaston Preparatory School, where he taught and where Cantelupe still teaches. On College Day last spring, the students revealed their college choices. Sanchez pointed out that every senior had been accepted by at least two colleges.

Asked how discipline would be handled, Sanchez asked two local students who attend Gaston Preparatory School to describe their experiences with discipline. Student S said, “I broke the honor code by copying someone else’s paper.” She went on to describe interactions with faculty and other students, who helped her work through the issue of cheating. Asked if that was better than being suspended, she answered, “If you’re suspended, you don’t have a chance to learn.”

Sanchez said that the school will reinforce learnings beyond the typical academic subjects. It will emphasize character development, “Not just talk about it.” He described what a visitor to the school will see: pictures of students, displayed beside college banners and quotations emphasizing character traits. The school will concentrate on trying to transform how students view themselves, he said.

They hope to locate the school near downtown Henderson, where many students would live in walking distance, Sanchez said. Transportation will be provided for students who live more than one-and-a-half mile from the school.

Before closing the meeting, Sanchez explained the various ways people could contribute to the school: by donating financially, by volunteering and by spreading the word.

The group then partook of refreshments provided by the board.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.

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