MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. – Just over a month into its inaugural school year, Mountain Island Charter School is earning high marks from students and teachers.
“The classes are much smaller and I like that,” says Naomi Choice, a student at the school.
The school is different from others in other ways as well.
“A lot of the things that teachers wished they had more time to do in the classroom, we actually get to focus on those things and tie all of it together,” Mary Smith, the school's director of enrichment explains.
While reading, writing and math are all priorities at Mountain Island Charter School, the health of the students is factored into the school day as well.
"We've added extra physical activity into our curriculum," says Leah Bennett, a physical education and wellness teacher.
Health instruction also includes a lesson in first aid.
"Every sixth and seventh grader will leave here this year with the ability to perform CPR-First Aid and operate an AED. You don't find that in a lot of places," says Bennett.
Students also learn about community involvement.
"We also do community service projects," says Smith. "My husband is deployed to Iraq so the kindergarten, first graders wrote letters to my husband and some of the other soldiers in his unit. The second, third and fourth graders wrote to children in Thailand, and the middle schoolers have pen pals in Africa."
Community and leadership roles fit into the daily curriculum.
"All sixth graders, all seventh graders - they get leadership into their regular daily schedules, not specials, not exploratory. It's built into their daily curriculum," says Toni Stallings, a leadership teacher.
Students and teachers both say they have more freedom at Mountain Island Charter School, but there’s also structure at the school.
"You give them the freedom to do the things that they know how to do well instead of encumbering them with a lot of preset, preexisting expectations or conditions," says Linda Bratcher, the head of the school.
The goal is to make Mountain Island Charter School a high school in the next couple of years and to settle into a more permanent location.