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Back to school 2016: Gray Stone is growing

MISENHEIMER — Gray Stone Day School will begin the school year on Monday when the largest incoming class in school history meets the largest ever graduating class. A total enrollment of 480 students is expected with a graduating class that may top 100 for the first time in school history.

The year will begin with incoming freshmen taking part in freshman prep, a co-curricular activity designed to acclimate students to the school and the expectations of high school. This program will begin on the first day, with a half-day of school, and continues through the week culminating in a campus-wide welcome and first home soccer game on Friday, Aug. 19, against Piedmont. Activities will include lessons in note taking, study skills and how to avoid plagiarism.

“We have done a program like this for several years with our freshmen and have seen huge dividends from spending the time teaching them how to be students. We are excited about this program and what it does for our students,” said Jeff Morris, head of school at Gray Stone. “I don’t know a better way to kick off high school for students who are nervous about the new environment both socially and academically.”

This program is being coordinated by the new school counselor, Kersey Manning. Manning is a graduate of the master’s of education program in school counseling at UNC Chapel Hill and is coming to Gray Stone from Apex High School in Apex.

While the freshmen are participating in this program, the remaining students will be taking part in co-curricular programs of their own. Gray Stone will implement this program for the coming school year to give students the opportunity to explore topics that can’t really be covered in earnest through the normal academic curriculum. Opportunities vary widely as students will explore topics from astronomy, genealogy, French, photography, game theory or an examination of the judicial process.

Helen Nance, the chief administrative officer at Gray Stone said, “One of the goals of this program is to provide opportunities for students to explore fields to which they might normally be exposed.”

Gray Stone has planned five different units during the school year where students will have the opportunity to explore through co-curricular and experiential activities. Students will have the opportunity to register for the remaining sessions once school begins.

“A program like this allows for teachers to share their passion and connect with students on a different level that can only pay future dividends as they seek to master the core curriculum,” said Nance.

That core curriculum is steep with challenge. Gray Stone will offer twelve different advanced placement courses to the expected 480 students. Advanced placement courses are designed by the College Board as college level courses intended for high school students to get a taste of what level of work is expected in college. Students also have the opportunity to sit for an exam that could earn them college credit at the end of the year. For 2015-2016, more than 70 percent of the students who took the college exam received college credit which is almost 20 percent higher than the state average.

Gray Stone will also be adding a program called capstone scholar which allows students to explore higher level research in two specialized courses. Capstone seminar will allow students to examine complex real world problems of their choosing from multiple perspectives and take a stance on controversial topics. Capstone research students will design, plan and conduct a year-long research project on an in-depth topic of their choice.

“These capstone courses are a culminating learning experience that allow students to explore academic topics that interest them and utilize everything they have learned through high school,” said Morris, who is responsible for curriculum design at Gray Stone. “Opportunities like this are not for everyone, but we have a large number of students who will thrive in this type of self-directed, teacher-guided environment.”

Setting the tone for the year is important to the Gray Stone staff. Dr. Brien Lewis, president of Catawba College is scheduled to speak at their fall convocation which is scheduled for Aug. 30. The program is designed to promote honor and personal integrity.

“We know this will be a great year. We have put a lot into the planning and we have a great staff,” said Nance.

Gray Stone Day School is a public charter high school serving students in grades 9-12 on the campus of Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer. For more information about the school, visit www.graystoneday.org.

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