Charter school planned for Beaufort County

Published 6:35 pm Thursday, June 30, 2016

A new charter school is in the works for Beaufort County.

Representatives for Inner Banks Innovation Academy met with the public at Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday night to discuss plans for the charter school.

Slated to open in 2018, the school will accept students on an application basis and would base its curriculum on blended learning, which allows teachers to mentor students while also utilizing technology in the curriculum, according to Dave Edwards of Ignite Learning Partners, a consulting firm hired to represent the new school.

Edwards said the group wanted to bring another charter school option to Beaufort County to give students more opportunities and encourage them to pursue an education within the county. He said the blended learning philosophy is different from that of the Montessori outlook, although both focus on more independent, personalized learning.

School organizers also want to emphasize career exploration, with specialized courses beginning at the high school level, according to Edwards.

“Our goal is to try to bring back some of those and bring some of the dollars back to Beaufort County,” he said. “Blended learning is the best of face-to-face combined with the best of technology.”

Another component of the new school would be a self-selected board, which focuses on the one school and makes decisions based on feedback. The current board has five members, but the goal is to bring in more, ideally from the area.

Board member Wendy Whitehurst said the new school would incorporate the Peaceful Schools program for discipline, which trains staff and students how to avoid conflict through resolution skills and teamwork.

“We want to create an environment where students, as well as the staff, learn to work together,” Whitehurst said. “Rather than ostracize the offender … we want to integrate that child back into the classroom, so the children will learn together how to have conflict resolution.”

Some members of the public who attended Wednesday’s discussion questioned how plausible the charter school’s model would be in reality.

Wendy Petteway, career and technical education director at Beaufort County Schools, questioned how the new school’s career exploration courses would work in conjunction with what the public schools already have in place.

Petteway also pointed out that career course equipment can be expensive and questioned how the school would afford it.

“I just want to make sure the students, you know, if they choose to go here get the same opportunity,” she said.

Other concerns from the public included the plausibility of individual learning in a projected classroom size of 18-20 students, as well as how the curriculum would be chosen.

Current options on the table include the Core Knowledge curriculum, created by Ed Hirsch, and GLM Education.

Edwards said the charter school is bound to many state requirements, including mandatory curriculum topics, but the board has some autonomy to adjust operations according to students’ needs.

As the board continues to form and the school awaits charter approval, many questions remain unanswered. A location for the school building has yet to be decided and grade levels offered will be based on community interest.

Edwards said the plan is to accept 140 applicants in the fall of 2018, and anyone who is not chosen will be placed on a wait list.

Whitehurst said she welcomes any feedback from Beaufort County residents, and representatives will hold many more public discussions.

The next public meeting will be held on July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Belhaven Civic Center, 257 W. Pungo St., Belhaven. For more information, call Wendy Whitehurst at 252-375-5200 or visit