Next year, Fridays at Moore County’s largest charter school won’t be for regularly scheduled instruction.
Sandhills Theater Arts Renaissance School’s 2019-2020 calendar will be based on a four-day school week for the most part, with only five traditional Fridays planned throughout the year.
STARS already designates some Fridays as “off days” for things like teacher training and parent conferences. Next year, it will free up almost all of them.
Nearly 30 will be optional half-days to provide individualized attention to struggling students and a selection of clubs and enrichment activities for any other students who choose to attend, said Wesley Graner, the school’s executive director.
“At any school we’re always trying to figure out how we can shrink the numbers down to 5 or 6 kids to work on issues that they’re having: fractions, writing a strong paragraph, whatever it may be,” said Graner. “For other kids who are doing great, ee can give them a great opportunity and a different way to work with their teachers rather than just your normal standard day.”
Like every other public school, North Carolina charters have to meet for a certain number of hours — at least 1,025 — during the school year.
“We can accomplish the mandate within four days and use that fifth day as a day we’re going to work with certain kids on certain skills,” Graner said.
STARS’ 2019-2020 calendar went home to families a few weeks ago. To accommodate the unconventional schedule, school will start on Aug. 12, 10 days earlier than usual, and end on June 5. Each school day will also extend 10 minutes later.
Graner said that the school initially proposed the idea of a four-day week to some skepticism from parents about how it would work — and whether it would really benefit students. Half days will start at 8 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. STARS will provide bus service as usual to students who attend on those days.
“We drafted an explanation of how the day might look and a mock schedule and we got really good feedback,” Graner said.
“We took it to our folks and talked through it and there was disagreement and middle ground. We finally found something that’s true to the spirit of what we were trying to do that takes into account people’s concerns as much as humanly possible.”
Though all students will have the option to attend on half-days, teachers will also reach out to parents directly if their students would benefit from a morning of one-on-one instruction.
“They won’t have to come, but we have good relationships with our parents and if we say we want to work with them for a few hours on specific things, in our experience they’re pretty responsive,” said Graner.
“It’s going to be a lot of work for our teachers, but it’s a different way to try to tackle some of the things that I think most of us in schools confront.”
One of three charter schools in Moore County, STARS currently serves about 530 students and is in the process of adding high school grades to become a K-12 school. The school is also undergoing an expansion that would allow it to grow its K-8 core population and enroll more than 700 students.
Graner said that next year’s calendar is designed to provide opportunities for children all over the achievement spectrum: whether they’re working to catch up to classmates in specific areas or participating in other activities like STEM-oriented projects, sports and book clubs, or a Future City team.
“We’re trying to help everybody and create new opportunities for kids to keep them invested in school,” he said. “The people that we work the hardest for in schools are the ones we have the best relationships with. When we’re grinding away on a normal day it’s hard to see each other in any other way.”