(Originally emailed February 8, 2014.)
So much has happened in 2014 (you’ll note I have quite a bit more grey hairs) and I’m pleased to give you an update.
First and foremost…WE WERE GRANTED EXPANSION APPROVAL!!!
Yup, it’s official. We found out Wednesday and immediately posted on our Facebook page. Whether you have elementary age students that you want to take advantage of this opportunity, or you have friends with young ones, I hope that you will help us to spread the word.
Application Process. By Monday, we hope to have the elementary application, informational meeting sessions, and the date of the elementary lottery up on our website. We will accept applications for the elementary school through 8 AM on Monday, March 17, and the lottery will be held at 3:45 on Wednesday, March 19. We will be accepting applications for kindergarten through 5th grade. Siblings of currently enrolled students AND the siblings of students selected through yesterday’s middle school lottery will be given the sibling preference.
Facilities. Everything hinges on this and in fact, the applications will state that enrollment is contingent upon the school securing a site.
As you know, we have expressed our interest in the Stones Warehouse to the City of Raleigh. We hope that location will become our permanent K-8 home. However, if we are able to purchase it, the site won’t be ready for move in for at least 2 years. For the interim elementary location, we have also been working with the city to lease and renovate the Old Salvation Army site at 215 S. Person. (The site has also been in the news because a small warehouse/shed behind the property will be used as a feeding distribution for the homeless and hungry on the weekends).
We’ve had architects who have been working on plans, general contractors who have inspected mechanicals, electrical, and plumbing, and inspectors to ensure there are no hazardous materials on site. We are in the process of a feasibility study to determine if the location will need to go through a site planning process (which could be lengthy). Running parallel to that, we have presented lease terms to the City and will be on the agenda at this Tuesday’s BED (Budget and Economic Development) committee. Essentially, we’re asking the City to lease us the property for $1 per year. We will pay for all renovation expenses, utilities, and maintenance for the term of our lease. Hopefully, the BED will approve the lease and put it on the City Council’s agenda for a February 18th vote.
The Salvation Army site has room for approximately 9 classrooms. The configuration would be three k/1 combined classes (total 24 kindergarten and 24 first graders), three 2/3 combined classes (again, 24 each grade), and three 4/5 combined classes.
Because of the very tight timeline of this project and some of the challenges we face, we are also exploring Plan B scenarios. We could use your help in this. Ideally, we’re looking for something in the downtown area, but definitely in the belt-line. Since we’ll only be in the building a short time, we need any renovation costs to balance yearly rent – meaning if we pay to renovate, we pay very, very little to rent or vice versa. Please don’t be shy if you think you know of a perfect temporary home for the elementary school.
Curriculum and Programming. I know many of you have specific questions regarding curriculum and programming (will we have art, a foreign language, music, service learning, etc.) Much of that still has to be planned and it will be important for the elementary staff to take a lead in that planning. I can tell you that we will have enrichment classes (I’d love to have at least art and music); elementary kids will have recess everyday (outside on most days); and that the social curriculum will be just as important as the academic curriculum (For more info on that see https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/ ).
The elementary academic program will focus on building strong foundational skills (numeracy, literacy, and critical thinking). Like the middle school, that focus will be contextualized in a project-based setting. We don’t want kids to ask, “Why do I need to learn this anyway?” Through the application of content and skills in authentic, real world contexts, that answer should be apparent to students. (For a glimpse of what students can do when given meaningful project work, go to http://elschools.org/student-work and adjust the grade range to view work from k-5 students.)
Also, like the middle school, students will engage in service learning. That service will mainly be integrated into the thematic projects and will not occur as frequently as at the middle school level.
Ultimately, the school’s mission, vision, and values will remain a constant throughout the elementary and middle school programs.
What else has been going on?
The Middle School Lottery was held this past Friday. We had 330 applicants for 68 sixth grade spots and 409 applications total for grades 6-8. Each applicant was assigned a number and the numbers of selected applicants have already been posted to the school’s website.
We’ve partnered with Capital Development, a fundraising consulting firm, to begin work on a capital campaign. We want to ensure that our k-8 home has every benefit, and we know we’ll need the community’s help and resources (financial and otherwise) to make it a reality.
We’ve applied for nomination as a Green Ribbon School. This is a federal recognition program that opened in September 2011. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s School Planning Division will review all applications and then nominate state finalists for consideration at the national level. Honored schools exercise a comprehensive approach to creating “green” environments through reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.
The Exploris Student Ambassador Program has had a very successful launch. Through a rigorous application process in November, these exemplary students were selected to lead visitors on tours of our school. To date, the students have led close to 300 visitors through the school, explaining and illustrating what makes Exploris so special.
A group of 8 students were selected among several applicants to serve on a Capital Planning Team. These students have been working with former City-Councilwoman Anne Franklin. They have been learning about the capital development and city planning process, have toured the Stones Warehouse, viewed and reflected on architectural plans for Salvation Army and will serve as key partners in the facility development process. The kids seem to really be enjoying the process, and we are so appreciative of Anne engaging our students in this important way.
On the Horizon
Exploris PTO’s annual Frolic Fundraiser and Dance will be held on Friday, March 21, 7 pm at Marbles Kids’ Museum. This is the PTO’s signature event and helps the PTO to support the school’s programs and students in many, many ways. There will be food, music, a silent auction, a kids’ dance, and many other activities. Please bring the whole family and support the work of our PTO.
Eight Exploris students were selected for the school’s annual exchange trip to Hiroshima, Japan. The students leave on March 9 and will be gone for 10 days. Each will live with a host family and be totally immersed in the life of a typical Japanese teenager. Accompanying the students on this year’s trip will be Laura and Vaishali.
Last year, the school participated in a pilot program for the NC STEM Recognition Program. That recognition program is now up and running and Exploris will be submitting its official application in the coming month. The application is built around a rubric which outlines critical strengths, eleven “Attributes”, of a high quality STEM Education schools program. Schools/Programs demonstrating evidence they are implementing all Attributes of a quality STEM program at the “Prepared” or “Model” level will be recognized.
Another Generous Offer
Last month, Exploris parent Gwenn Clarke offered to give a percentage of any Exploris home sale or referral back to the school. Parent Alex Theis, owner of Capital Auto on Capital Blvd, offered $200.00 for every Exploris referral that results in a sale.
Dates to Remember:
Tuesday, February 11 – PTO Board Meeting, 1:30 @ Church of Good Shepherd
Friday, February 14 – Early Release Day (noon dismissal)
Monday, February 17 – No school, Teacher Workday (This is now a snow make-up day.)
Tuesday, February 18 – Exploris Board Meeting, 4:30 in 8S
Thursday, February 20 – Coffee & Conversation with Summer, 7:45 in “Media Center”
Director, Exploris Middle School
(f) 919.715. 2042