New charter school to open in Rock Hill for 2014-2015 school year

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comNovember 16, 2013 

  • Want to know more?

    • What: Riverwalk Academy Open House

    • Where: Faith Assembly of God, 2800 Faith Blvd., Rock Hill

    • When: November 19, 7-8 p.m.

    For information go to riverwalkacademy.com

— Parent and students in York County will have another option next school year as Riverwalk Academy, a new charter school, is officially a go.

Riverwalk Academy with be York County’s second charter school. York Preparatory Academy, opened in August 2010.

A focus on project-based learning will make Riverwalk Academy different, said Brian Keith, one of the school’s organizers.

“This is not the lecture, test-and-forget model that we grew up with,” Keith said.

Riverwalk’s mission is to lead “students to achieve, through authentic project-based learning experiences, the knowledge and inquiry skills they need to succeed in life, college and their future careers.”

It is the focus on project-based learning and the chance for a change from public schools that attracted Darla Michaw, a Rock Hill resident with three children. She is now a Riverwalk board member

“I was just excited,” she said. “Dealing with the public school system for 11 years, I just see a need for change and the option for that change.”

Only one of Michaw’s three children will attend the school, because of their ages. In its first year, Riverwalk will offer instruction from kindergarten through fifth grade. A grade will be added every year after that until it is a K-12 school.

Parent Wendy Hogan will be sending her rising fifth-grade son to Riverwalk in the fall because she sees the benefits of project-based learning in her career as a project manager.

“I experience on a daily basis, people struggle in certain areas working together on a project, or to accomplish a task,” she said. “That is why I feel that this format or this way of teaching is really relevant to any business or industry.”

Current methods of teaching in public schools are old and parents need a choice when it comes to instructional methods and schools, she said. Rock Hill schools and other public school districts locally use the project-based learning in their curriculum.

Riverwalk will be a part of the South Carolina Public Charter School District, which currently has 24 schools across the state, with 13 more approved to open for the 2014-2015 school year, said SCPCSD communications director Laura Bayne. That number could change because schools sometimes delay their openings for a year, she said.

The school will have low students-to-teacher ratios and engage the entire student, with teachers functioning as facilitators of learning, not lecturers, Keith said. Because it is a charter school, teachers at Riverwalk will have more flexibility.

“It’s not that charter schools are better than public schools,” Keith said. “It’s just another option.”

Where the school will be located hasn’t been determined, but Keith said they’re looking to stay in the northern Rock Hill area, near the Riverwalk community. They also hope to build a new building, not occupy an existing one.

Keith said they hope to have 460 students enrolled by August. Bayne said the SCPSD has the target student population was 299 students for the first year.

Keith said the board is working to build interest and get people to apply, which they can do through Riverwalk’s website. They’ve already received “several dozen” applications.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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