Enrollment continues to grow at Gray Stone
By Sarah Campbell
MISENHEIMER ó Since it opened in 2002, Gray Stone Day School has grown from 80 to 315 students and become a successful model for charter schools.
Enrollment has climbed as students and parents find out about its goal to prepare students for college.
Senior Joseph Streble opted to attend the Gray Stone Day School rather than A.L. Brown High School because he wanted a challenge.
ěPublic school was way too easy,î he said.
Sophomore Kelsey Jose says she felt the same way, thatís why she chose Gray Stone after leaving Southeast Middle School.
ěI feel like Iím getting a much better education and looking forward to college,î she said.
Susan Grathwohl sent her daughters, Abby and Maggie, to Gray Stone because she wanted them to build a stronger academic foundation.
ěMore than anything, we looked at the fact that this school is focused on academics and preparing students for the university level,î she said.
Grathwohl said she feels her daughters have gained an edge by attending Gray Stone.
ěIíve seen firsthand what being in an environment thatís centered around a competitive attitude about academics versus a high school where there are all different motivation levels can do.î
Helen Nance said she set out to launch the school as a way to provide students with a more challenging atmosphere after her daughters began college, two at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one at Wake Forest University.
ě(They) went to an area high school and because it was a small rural classroom they werenít ready to compete with students coming from urban areas,î she said.
While discussing her frustration with her husband, Jim, he threw out the idea to open a high school on the campus of Pfeiffer University.
The charter for the school was approved in February 2002 and open by August that same year.
ěWe basically had six months to open a school on paper, we had to find teachers and students to come to the school,î she said.
Nance said the curriculum at Gray Stone is almost all honors and advanced placement (AP) courses.
ěIt is a rigorous curriculum and itís not the right fit for everybody,î she said. ěOn that note, everybody can come here.î
Nance says student receive an ěearned diplomaî from the school.
ěStudents have to be willing to work hard and be highly motivated to want to get this kind of an education,î she said. ěIf you make it through the four years youíve worked hard.î
Danny Blalock, a part time science teacher at the school, said heís been amazed by the student motivation heís seen at the school.
ěThe kids arenít mental giants, but theyíre all very cooperative,î he said. ěIf I would say OK weíre going to stand on our heads today, not all of them could do it, but they would try.î
Nance said about 98 percent of her students move on to pursue higher education. This year, students have earned more than $2 million in scholarships.
ěThatís one of the things we considered when we were writing the charter for Gray Stone, to not only prepare them for college but the help their families find ways to afford it,î Nance said.
Grathwohl said Gray Stone fills an important niche, drawing students from six counties. ěIt provides opportunities in a rural area that many of these students would not otherwise have access to,î she said.
Students also say that Gray Stoneís smaller class size was part of the appeal.
Senior Eldon Zacek III, the Student Government Association president, said after attending private, public and charter schools he wanted to stick with a smaller school where he could explore more opportunities.
ěI like the fact that when I walk through the hallways I know every single person not just by name, but I actually know a little bit about them,î he said. ěIím not just part of the crowd.î
Freshman Ben Weekly said after being home-schooled by his mother he wanted to find a smaller setting.
And, he said if he had attended Albemarle High School he probably wouldnít be playing basketball.
ěSports teams are a lot easier to make here,î he said.
Freshman Taylor Morris said the smaller class size means more one on one instruction from teachers.
Zacek said heís been able to form bonds with his teachers he might not have had in a traditional school setting.
ěWhat I love about the small school is the you really get in tune with where your students are coming from,î Nance said. ěI think the most important thing that we do here is treat every child as an individual.î
When Zacek graduates and heads to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he said heís ready because of the preparation he received at Gray Stone.
ěI feel like I have the confidence to stand on my own two feet,î he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.