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School Choice Week highlights options

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Elijah Nines, 13, left, explains his project ‘Fruit Battery’ Thursday night during the annual Classical Conversations Science Fair at Church on the Rise in Rocky Mount.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, January 26, 2019

National School Choice Week comes to a close today, but several school choice options remain available for families in the Twin Counties and now is the perfect time to explore them.

While traditional public schools remain the top choice for most students, other options include charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.

Homeschooling remains the fastest growing option in the state. According to information published in July by the state Division of Non-Public Education, the number of registered homeschools in the state in the 2017-18 school year was 86,753, up 7.1 percent from the year before. About 824 homeschools are currently operating in Nash County and about 310 in Edgecombe County.

“Homeschooling gives families the freedom to tailor their children's educations to their individual needs. Parents know their children best and are often best qualified to challenge their children without squelching their love of learning. Homeschooling allows families to pass on their beliefs and values, to enjoy learning with their children and to make the most of each day rather than wasting time,” said Justin Nale, a support representative for the Classical Conversations communities in the area.

Classical Conversations offers a structured way for homeschooling families to learn together one day a week and participate in events such as science fairs and mock trials that would be impossible to replicate at home. Two other main homeschool communities exist in Rocky Mount: the Simple Gifts co-op and the CHARM support group. 

“Through groups like the local Simple Gifts co-op and our local Classical Conversations homeschooilng communities, families and students can have the benefits of homeschooling while also enjoying plenty of social interaction and learning in community,” Nale said.

A new Classical Conversation community will begin in Tarboro in the coming academic year, Nale said.

Private schools are another popular school choice option in the Twin Counties. According to  information provided by the state Department for Non-Public Education, more than 1,300 students were enrolled in private schools in Nash County while Edgecombe County currently has no private schools. 

The private school options in Nash County include Rocky Mount Academy, a full-service secular private school with a good track record of academic excellence. Rocky Mount Academy is one of the oldest private schools in the county, second only to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a K-8 Catholic school. Faith Christian School is the oldest independent Christian private school in Nash County. New Life Academy is the newest private school option and the most affordable one for most families.

The Twin Counties had three charter schools for the first time this academic year but is now back to two. The oldest charter school in the Twin Counties and one of the oldest in the state is Rocky Mount Preparatory School. North East Carolina Prep School in Tarboro was founded in 2012 and now offers grades K-12. Another charter school, the Global Acheivers School, opened in Nash County in August 2018 and closed in December after its charter was revoked by the State Board of Education.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that operate under freer guidelines than traditional public schools and are funded in slightly different ways. 

A recent poll of 900 North Carolina families released last week by the Civitas Institute reports that most North Carolinians are supportive of school choice options. Though 76 percent of families surveyed have their children enrolled in traditional public schools, 70 percent strongly agreed and 22 percent somewhat agreed with the statement that “Parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school.” 

Parents surveyed also were asked “If you were able to select the best school for your child and resources were not a problem, what type of school would you select for your child?” Only 28 percent chose traditional public schools in answer to that question. The majority, 45 percent, said they would choose private schools, 13 percent would choose charter schools and 9 percent would choose to education their children at home.

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