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March 20. 2013 10:11PM

Derry charter high school will focus on flexibility

DERRY - When the Next Charter High School opens in September, the school's co-directors are counting on the key to its success being its flexibility; both flexibility of space and flexibility in what it can offer its students.

The state's department of education recently gave its approval for the school to open its doors in September.

Co-directors Joe Crawford and Justin Krieger are now meeting with students and their families who might want to attend the school and are in the process of hiring two full-time teachers for the school.

In its first year, the school will have a cap of 30 students and a staff of seven, with Crawford and Krieger teaching classes as well as helping run the school.

In addition, there will be two full-time teachers and two AmeriCorps members joining Crawford, Krieger, and secretary Karen Woodes.

The school will be in a self-contained section of the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School and will have three larger classrooms as well as a number of smaller rooms that will be used for everything from student lounges to computer lab space to meeting rooms for students and teachers.

The classrooms and the school itself will be different than the traditional high school experience, Krieger said.

Rooms will be outfitted with an Apple TV platform, allowing teachers and students to share information and their learning experiences.

"The kids are going to be graduating into a world dominated by computing," said Krieger.

Rather than having separate computer classes, technology and computing will be integrated into everything the students do.

Although the charter high school will focus on individualized learning plans with the students playing a large role in their education, Crawford said that should not be confused with thinking of the school as an alternative high school aimed at a certain type of student.

"We all talk about the idea of flexibility," said Crawford.

When meeting with students and parents, the talk is about how the school wraps around the needs of what the student is looking for.

Crawford said it can be easy to put labels on kids or organizations, and it can be easier to talk about what the school is not.

"We're not a school for troublemakers or failures," said Crawford.

Those who are interested in the school are looking for an education that is more flexible and individualized, he said.

One of the goals of the school is to provide more social learning opportunities, with students working together on both short- and long-term projects. With spaces set aside to work on collaborative projects and the work put into establishing partnerships with businesses and organizations in the community, Krieger said in some ways the school will mirror the working world.

The current open application window for prospective students continues through March 29. If more than 30 students apply, there will be a lottery held in mid-April.

Crawford said everyone who applies has an equal opportunity to be accepted. He said the final choice really comes down to if the students think the charter school is right for them.

"The reason we have the application window is so we can hold conversations with students and their families," said Crawford. "A lot of people want to get information. This is a school of choice; it's not all things to all people."

Crawford said the school has an open enrollment and will continue to accept applications throughout the coming months if it does not reach the cap of 30 students for the first school year.

Anyone interested in further information about the school or applying can go to its website at www.nextcharterschool.org.

aswift@newstote.com


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