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New private school to provide university model education to Charleston-area students

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NORTH CHARLESTON — A new private school aims to prepare students for college while giving them ample time at home.

Hope Scholars Academy, hosted in Cooper River Baptist Church in the Park Circle neighborhood, will open on Aug. 16. It’s the first high school in the area that is part of the University Model School network, an education system that has students attend in-person class three days a week and learn from school the rest of the time.

A group of parents approached Head of School Anna Smith about opening Hope Scholars, as they wanted a high school option that supports the homeschool lifestyle. Smith has a 25-year background in education as a history and English teacher and university administrator

“With the pandemic, parents started to realize we need to spend more time with our kids,” said Smith, who also will work as the school’s English literature and history teacher. “We wanted to support that.”

The school is starting small, with a class of about 15 students, offering courses to high schoolers in grades nine through 12 and some honors course for eighth graders. The school is funded through donations and tuition, which costs around $6,000 per student per year with scholarship opportunities available, Smith said.

The students’ schedules will be modeled after university courses, with classes lasting 75 minutes in person. When the students are at home, they’ll be given detailed coursework from their teachers and have the option to meet one-on-one via Zoom for office hours and tutoring.

The goal is to have students graduate from high school with an established idea of what college will look like.

In math and science classes, lectures will be in response to labs and hands on activities so that students are learning through doing.

“We’re starting each unit with an experience and then learning throughout the unit what happened,” said Harrison Brown, the school’s math and science teacher. “Rather than doing a bunch of boring material and ending in something fun, I want to start with something fun. So they’re actually interested in what we’re talking about.”

In addition to the typical core subjects, students will have Bible and worldview, Spanish and fine-arts classes. While the Bible and worldview classes will be dedicated to teaching students about religion and current topics, Smith said the Christian faith will play a role in all parts of the school.

The school is offered nondenominational, so the courses can apply to anyone in the Christian faith.

“We believe right now, especially for young people … they need hope,” Smith said. “We believe the Christian faith is the best way to find hope in the world.”

Students will have the chance to take Discover U classes as well, providing the opportunity for them to learn about themselves through personality quizzes like Strengths Finder and Myers-Briggs. They’ll find out how to apply those personality traits to school and the real world, Smith said.

For many students who are used to the homeschool lifestyle, Hope Scholars is an opportunity to connect with others while remaining in an educational model that is familiar to them. Kristin Seaver, whose daughter Sarah Evelyn Seaver will attend the school as sophomore in the fall, was one of the parents to approach Smith about starting the school.

Seaver’s three youngest children attend Lowcountry Christian Community School, which offers a similar blended in-person and homeschool model as Hope Scholars. She was frustrated with the lack of options for that type of school for high schoolers.

“We just fell in love with the three days in class and two days at home,” Seaver said. “It gives the best of both worlds.”

Sarah Evelyn, who, unlike her three younger sisters, has only ever attended full-time home school, is excited for the opportunity to connect with her peers.

“I’m an extrovert and I want to be around people,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to having that three day a week curriculum.”

The school will also have bonding activities for parents and families, Smith said. Students will be able to compete with each other after being put into different houses, like in Harry Potter. The school will also be restricting students’ use of technology, taking phones at the door.

The idea is to create a sense of community outside of the school setting, Smith said.

Those who are interested in Hope Scholars can attend an information session at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Cooper River Baptist Church or visit hopescholarsacademy.org.

This content was originally published here.

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