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East Spencer charter school application submitted

Twenty-eight applications for new charter schools were submitted to the state on Sept. 25. There was only one application submitted for Rowan County — the Paul L. Dunbar Charter School.

If approved, the Paul L. Dunbar Charter School is scheduled to open in 2017 in East Spencer.

According to the application, the school plans to open with 100 students in kindergarten through second grade. The school will eventually expand to 300 students by adding a grade level and additional classes at the lower grade levels each year. By its fifth year, the school will have two classes at each grade level from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Students will be selected using a lottery, but Nan Lund, secretary of the governing board of the Paul L. Dunbar Charter School, said she expects a large population from East Spencer to attend the school.

“I think we anticipate that, given that East Spencer does not have a school, a large proportion of our students will probably come from that area,” she said, “because right now they are all being bused out of the community.”

According to the application, about 32 percent of families and about 36 percent of the population in the East Spencer area live below the poverty line.

Whitney Peckman, a board member, said having a school in a community serves an important function.

“East Spencer doesn’t have a community hub where children and parents and non-custodial parents can gather for a constructive purpose,” Peckman said.

Although Lund said she has previously been committed to traditional public education, the deficit in East Spencer had to be remedied.

“There’s no heart without a school,” she said.

Lund also said creating a school in East Spencer could lead to other facilities like a library, pharmacy, bank and grocery store, to be added to the area.

“We see this as a beginning, a linchpin, of what could be developed in that community,” Lund said.

The application also stated features of the school that would be different from other traditional public schools.

For example, Spanish will be immersive into every classroom.

“At least part of the day, kids will be speaking in Spanish and listening in Spanish,” Lund said.

Art will also be integrated into the curriculum to teach core subjects.

“It really is just a way of integrating arts into the general curriculum, as a way to make learning less like a chore and more like something organic,” Peckman said.

The application also emphasized the importance of parents, stating, “Parents will be an integral part of the school team.”

Kenneth Muhammad El, board chairman, said it is important to let parents know their involvement is crucial.

“We probably will have some requirements that they come in other than a parent-teacher conference,” he said. “We’re not going to be successful if we don’t have the parents involved.”

Peckman said there would be opportunities for parents to be involved during the weekends, evenings or special events.

“We’re not saying every parent has to do volunteer duty in the classroom,” she said.

Lund said they were considering the building on Long Street that the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education now uses as a site for the new school.

Lund also said the desire for the school in East Spencer did not come out of dissatisfaction with other Rowan-Salisbury schools.

“We want to work in cooperation with Rowan-Salisbury schools,” she said.

Peckman said East Spencer needs a place like Paul L. Dunbar to revive the community.

“We’re really talking about resurrecting a healthy community, which is not healthy now,” Peckman said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222. 

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