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McEver Elementary now approved as charter school
Hall County's fourth charter school becomes McEver Arts Academy after state board's OK
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Bring on the art.

McEver Elementary School officially became McEver Arts Academy at the state Board of Education meeting Thursday, allowing the school to engage students through dance, music, drama and visual art.

Teachers will work to integrate lessons into project units, and students will develop products and exhibitions to display what they learned.

McEver joins three other Hall County schools in charter status approval Thursday.

At McEver, lesson plans are full of opportunities and the charter school designation has been years in the works.

“It’s really important to understand the journey to charter school status,” said McEver principal Catherine Rosa. “We’ve been at it for three years.”

The school first received a Character through the Arts grant, which combines arts with building character and gives teachers training to use arts-based strategies in the classroom. McEver classes also worked with ArtsNOW in Atlanta to bring in visiting artists and arts teachers.

“Superintendent Will Schofield has promoted the idea of finding your niche market,” she said. “Our population of Hispanic
students is very high at 71 percent, and we found engaging them in arts was a great way to teach because it’s so visual and kinesthetic.”

Parents and community members became involved in the planning process, and the school received a planning grant to visit other schools.

“The community overwhelmingly voted for this because they see that’s what the kids like,” Rosa said. “We piloted the schedule last year of art, music, P.E. and technology teachers working with other subjects to plan units in the classroom.”

One unit in fourth grade focuses on inventions, and students develop an invention to solve a real-life problem. They read about the work of Leonardo da Vinci in literature class, draw schematics of their inventions in art class, learn about simple machines in science class and study the Industrial Revolution in social studies class. The overlap and interaction among the disciplines engages the students, and students are able to interact with community artists one day a week.

“Last year, they were called Fabulous Fridays, and students would work with partners from Brenau University, Georgia Tech and North Georgia College to create games, videos, plays and do community service,” Rosa said. “People in the community want to be involved. I wish my kids went here now. It allows all different kinds of learners to feel connected.”

Charter status approval was also given Thursday to Chestatee Middle School, which is now the Chestatee Academy of Inquiry and Talent Development. It will develop interest groups to encourage engagement with students. Project SOAR (Seeking Out Authentic Relationships) clusters students into common areas of interest, and students learn by creating projects based on the interest.

Martin Elementary School is now Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science, forming a partnership with the Dell Corp. Using a wireless cloud environment, personal responders, smart boards and slates will help students engage with mathematics, science and engineering. Students will use computers to plan science experiments, collect data, write reports and conceptualize products.

Wauka Mountain Elementary School is now Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy, which focus on verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, musical, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist areas. Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy currently uses this model in the Gainesville City Schools district.

Hall County opened its first charter school — World Language Academy at Chestnut Mountain — in the 2008-2009 school year, and the Lanier Charter Career Academy and Sardis Enrichment School followed a year later. The district anticipates Johnson High School to be approved this summer as an International Scholars Academy and continues to push schools to find a specialty.

“It’s important for parents and students to have choice, and that choice includes learning in a different way,” said Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “Each school has its own niche, and parents and students can decide what is best for how they like to study.”

Under the Renzulli Learning System, Hall County schools seek to engage students through their interests.

“You see the lights come on in their eyes when they’re able to learn that way,” Barron said. “You put that carrot out that gets motivation and excitement about learning.”

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