A new charter school will open its doors Monday and welcome about 120 students in kindergarten through second grade into a learning environment focused on bringing students of all backgrounds together, according to leaders.
Westside Atlanta Charter School, the only new charter school to be approved by the Atlanta Board of Education to open for the 2013-14 school year, is located in the West Highlands community at 1903 Drew Drive.
Founding board member Chuck Johnston, a retired principal and lifelong educator, said the location of the independent start-up school is “far from accidental.”
“It’s sort of in the middle of the Westside, with the people to the south of where we are being people with fewer resources and people to the north of where we are being people with more options of good traditional public schools and private schools,” Johnston said. “The fact [is] that there are families from both sides of that divide who really want their children to get to know each other and work together. … People talk about diversity but [we are] really putting it into action and making a part of the school.”
Principal Pete Settelmayer, former principal of Dobbs Elementary School in southeast Atlanta, said he began a second career in education after working for the Walt Disney Co. in consumer products.
“I loved that you could walk into a room and kind of turn light bulbs on as you were talking about different subjects,” Settelmayer said of his experience with teaching.
Settelmayer said the difference between Westside and traditional schools are the smaller class sizes — only about 20 students per classroom and no more than 40 per grade — and making individual student learning a priority.
“We’re using Common Core State Standards to outline where we’re going, but we’re really focusing on what our students’ interests are and leading them to those standards through their interest,” he said.
In subsequent years, the school will grow by one grade each year until it serves kindergarten through eighth grade. Through a partnership with the Atlanta Speech School’s Rollins Center for Language and Learning in Buckhead and hiring a full-time literacy coach, the school also plans to focus on providing students with a strong foundation in reading and creative learning.
“By choosing us, [parents] are choosing a much more imaginative approach to learning,” Johnston said.
He said the build-out of the school cost about $450,000. The 6,000-square-foot space will contain six classrooms, a multi-purpose space for lunch and activities, a covered playground and a modular building to house administrative offices.