Local group looks to create new Christian private school in Kinston]
A quick look at many statistics and research will show a correlation between smaller school settings and better student performance. This, among many reasons, is part of the drive to send kids to private or charter schools over public schools.
While many factors can be attributed to these smaller, private schools, for many people the opportunities afforded by these schools are out of reach due to costs.
A group of people in Kinston are hoping to change that reality. Their goal is to launch a new school — Hope Preparatory School — in the fall of 2019 or 2020. It will be a Christian-based school that teaches in the classical model. The goal is to start with a kindergarten through second grade and add another grade level each year.
“We researched schools that served underprivileged kids in urban areas,” Diane Spear, the executive director of Hope Preparatory, said. “We found a school in Minneapolis that stood out. A group of us went in January to visit the school.”
The school they visited, Hope Academy, is deep in the heart of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. Despite the economic disadvantages of the area, this school has sent most of its students to college. Due to its success, Hope Academy has started to help spread their model across the country with a program they call “Spreading Hope.”
Spreading Hope shares the successful program that has been achieved in Minneapolis and looks at applicant cities across the nation that appear to be a good fit. The goal is to launch up to three schools a year. Houston, still reeling from the devastation from last year’s hurricane, was the recipient of the first school built on this model.
“We had to apply for this program and one of their mentors, a man named Russ Gregg, came to visit us this past year,” Spear said. “In 2019, they will open schools in Cleveland and Oklahoma City. The other school is going to be established here in Kinston. They typically like to put a school in a larger city, but when they saw the level of need that we have here, they were happy to help out.”
A member of the Hope Preparatory launch team, Gayla Vermillion, said the goal is to have 30-45 students in the first year.
“That is 30-45 families we can have an impact on,” she said. “That can start to help make some changes in families in the community.”
Besides building a school on a classical Christian model of education, there will be some major distinctions that separates it from a typical private or Christian school.
“One of the things that we are emphasizing is building relationships with families,” Vermillion said. “We want to encourage families to be involved. We feel that they need to be part of education and we respect the fact that parents are the primary teachers for children. Part of our ministry is to work with the whole family, not just the child.”
Parents will have to sign a covenant to commit to holding their children to a high standard of scholastic excellence. Part of this covenant is promising to be an active part of the child’s education. There will be an expectation of parents to attend mandatory events throughout the year.
Teachers will also meet and visit with their students and their families, with a goal of 12-15 students in a classroom, throughout the year.
“It’s a distinctive model that we don’t have here,” Spear said. “It is another choice for parents. It’s a great option for people in Kinston and is accessible. We have a high poverty and high crime rate here in Kinston. There is a need to bless the kids and honor them as God’s image bearer.
“They need to know that there is a purpose for what we learn and a purpose for our lives.”
The cost of private education can be expensive but officials at Hope Preparatory say it will be different. Their goal is to accept 70 percent of their academic population from disadvantaged homes.
“Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty,” Spear said. “Costs for the school will be based on a sliding scale and will be needs-based. Not all students will be from low-income homes, because we want the community to be racially and economically diverse so that when they leave here, they will all have a stake in the community.”
One of the ways the school will require, for funding, are outside funding partners who will help to sponsor students. The sponsors will also have opportunities to meet and interact with their sponsees throughout the school year.
Other funding will be filled with grants.
“We live in Kinston,” Spear said. “We have a heart for a Christian school that would be accessible to people in poverty or are disadvantaged. We want a school that strongly emphasizes the importance of family and we want to build relationships with them and the community.”