Arete Academy to offer homeschool curriculum to students with special circumstances | TheUnion.com

Arete Academy to offer homeschool curriculum to students with special circumstances

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

Academy director and educational advisor Sarah Scwhartz, left, and secretary/teaching aide DeAnne Harrison will do the instructional heavy lifting for Arete Charter Academy, a homeschool option for students in kindergarten through eighth grade taught on the Magnolia Intermediate School campus.

Times have changed, and school districts have to adapt.

That was Pleasant Ridge Union School District Superintendent Rusty Clark's motivation when he approached Sarah Schwartz in March about a new home school charter program.

Schwartz, the district's 2013-14 Teacher of the Year who's taught elementary school for 20 years — 17 in the district — was on board immediately.

Just like that, Arete Charter Academy was born.

The kindergarten-through-eighth grade academy — housed in a portable classroom on the north end of the Magnolia Intermediate School campus — will develop a tailored program for each student's needs.

"We were losing kids in our district who wanted a different kind of education," said Schwartz, the academy's director and educational advisor.

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"We wanted to reach out to the families that were leaving for whatever reason, whether they wanted something more individualized or they needed something more mobile. We knew we were losing families."

CURRICULUM

Students in grades kindergarten through third grade will do 30 percent of their studying online and 70 percent in a more traditional hands-on setting. Fourth and fifth graders will work a 50-50 program, and sixth-through-eighth graders will do 100 percent of their work online.

All students are required to come into the academy once every 20 days. Students up until fifth grade can come on campus, if they choose, for enrichment courses — things like science projects and math games. "The kinds of things that are fun to do with a group of other kids," Schwartz said.

The middle school kids will be eligible to take elective courses — woodshop, robotics, band — at Magnolia, if they choose.

GOALS AND CHALLENGES

Schwartz said the goal for the first year, which begins with the rest of the district on Tuesday, Aug. 15, is 20 students. The district has so far made a three-year commitment.

"We know (20 students) could be a challenge," Schwartz said. "We're doing a lot to reach out and let families know that we're here. … We would love to add 20 kids a year, so at the end of three years we'd have 60. But we'll take as many as want to come."

The current classroom is adjacent to two other portables available to the academy as needs grow. If Arete outgrows all three, there's district space available at alternate sites.

Schwartz said getting parents involved is critical for the program to succeed.

"Our curriculum is going to be more of a blend of hands-on and digital curriculum, so it will be a challenge to train parents and get families familiar and comfortable with that," she said. "That will probably be the biggest challenge."

STAFF

Right now it's just Schwartz, secretary/teaching aide DeAnne Harrison and district computer tech Rob Thompson.

Harrison, who's worked for the district for 10 years, was most recently a paraprofessional in special education. She was brought on board last week.

"I absolutely love working with kids, but I'm also really secretary oriented," Harrison said. "I did that for a long time before I was with the district. To combine both of them was quite intriguing to me. I don't have to relinquish my abilities to work with kids. I can do both at the same time."

INFORMATION MEETINGS

On Thursday at 5 p.m., and on July 25 at 10 a.m., Arete will host parent information meetings.

"We are hoping families can come out and see what we're doing," Schwartz said.

The meetings will take place in Magnolia's Room 7 and are designed to give parents the opportunity to meet Schwartz and Harrison and learn about the curriculum.

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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