The co-founders of Tapestry Public Charter School celebrated last week as the DeKalb County Board of Education unanimously approved a recommendation for the school from Alice Thompson, interim deputy superintendent, division of school leadership and operational support.
Tapestry’s mission is for an inclusive, individualized learning environment both for neurotypical students and those on the autism spectrum. The school board approved the school for a five-year charter term.
Co-founders Devon Christopher and Tonna Harris-Bosselmann stressed that the future charter school, which will be at Northeast Baptist Church, 4046 Chamblee Tucker Road in Atlanta, will not only be for children who have autism, but also those who thrive in a smaller learning environment.
“To be clear, Tapestry is there for a spectrum of children but it’s not set up to service just one end or the other of the spectrum, it’s to deal with all kids where they’re at,” said Christopher.
Christopher approached Harris-Bosselmann with the idea of the charter two years ago, after learning of the latter’s struggle with her 13-year-old son in middle school.
“He’s been in DeKalb public schools every single year except one when we thought we’d try private [school],” said Harris-Bosselmann. “There were some good things about private but it wasn’t perfect either.”
She said it was easier for her son in elementary school, but the transition to middle school has been particularly difficult because of the increased intensity of academics and more class changes.
Christopher’s son is younger, and she said the idea of having her son immersed in a school of more than 1,000 children and transitioning from class to class is unthinkable.
According to its petition, Tapestry will serve students in sixth through 12th grade, with grades six through eight being available the first year of operation only. The charter school would add one grade per year. The maximum size of the entire student body, by the fifth year of school operation, will be capped at 224. Harris-Bosselmann said that is in part due to their contract with DeKalb schools, as well as the mission to keep the student body size smaller, which is more beneficial to the students’ learning style.
The charter would utilize a traditional calendar that includes fewer breaks throughout the year and a longer summer break, according to a statement. The goal for the maximum student ratio in core content classes is 8-to-1, with 16 students in each class led by a co-teaching team. Graduation requirements will be 23 instead of 24, with one less social studies unit. Students will also have a modified block schedule and the school will administer the local and state mandated tests each year, following local and state funding regulations.
While they wait on final approval from the state board of education, the co-founders said they are going ahead with countywide outreach, with a goal to make this a model to be replicated throughout the county and nationwide.