GREENSBORO — On the first day of classes at the new Summit Creek Academy on Thursday, the corridors got plenty of traffic, with classes taking turns practicing their single-file walking technique.
“Good job, keep going,” encouraged Principal Amanda Brown. “Awesome sauce. This is how we walk in the hallway.”
The new charter school in Browns Summit opened Thursday with 520 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school plans to keep expanding, adding one grade per year, up through eighth grade. All of its spots up through third grade are filled and there’s a wait list, but the school is still accepting students in fourth and fifth grades.
Summit Creek is one of four charter schools in the Greensboro area that are run by National Heritage Academies, a company that operates schools in nine states. It’s the only new charter school opening in Guilford County this school year.
Like other public schools, tuition at Summit Creek is free. The school provides meals for a cost or free, depending on a student’s eligibility to get a free or reduced lunch. Transportation is not provided, though Brown said some families are carpooling.
Summit Creek’s building also is newly constructed. It was built by NHA, which leases it to the local charter school board. That board pays rent to the company from the dollars it receives from the state to educate each student.
Brown said her school expects to stand out in the areas of student behavior, moral education and parent engagement.
For behavior, she said, the school stresses instructing students on how to behave well, rather than emphasizing what not to do. Hearing all about what’s not allowed tends to get students intrigued to test the limits, she said, rather than promoting pride in doing something well.
Their moral education curriculum revolves around a series of virtues. First up for August and September is wisdom, Brown said. With the younger children, she said, staff will be talking about how students can make wise choices for themselves. For the older students, she said, they’ll talk more about how everyone’s choices affect other people.
Additionally, Brown said, her school emphasizes engaging with parents and making them feel welcome in the school. As part of that, the new school includes a “parent room,” right at the front of the building. It’s a small space with some plastic chairs and few other pieces of furniture, like tables or shelves. For the first day of school, there were donuts waiting inside.
Sisters Cristin Brown and Karessa Wiley were among the parents who tried out the parent room on the first day. From what they understand, the space is meant as a sort of lounge where parents can hang out briefly, or, with permission, for longer periods. On Thursday morning at least one parent used the space to get some work done on his laptop.
Cristin Brown, no relation to principal Amanda Brown, said she checked out Summit Creek because she had just moved to Greensboro with her children and had a general interest in charter schools.
She said, among other things, she was impressed by how welcoming the staff were, the diversity of the school, and its convenience — it’s close to her home.
Wiley learned about Summit Creek from her sister. She said she lives in Liberty, but had grown frustrated with the Randolph County Schools over its handling of accommodations for her fifth-grade son, who has special needs.
At first, Wiley thought she would just enroll her first-grader at Summit Creek and just home school her older child. But she said she was won over by her interactions with staff at the school.
First, she said, they took an interest in her fifth-grader and his well-being, even before they had reason to think he would be attending. Later, they proposed the sort of accommodations for her son that seemed like common sense to her, but that she’d been resigned to having to struggle to ever get school staff to consider.
School leaders’ decision to set aside a “parent room” meant something to her.
“It really does make you feel like, ‘I am welcome here,’” she said.