Gray Collegiate Academy, a public charter school in West Columbia, started work Feb. 24 to add three new classrooms, a conference room and an office space.
A Lexington County school has started construction to expand its campus with an eye on adding to the grade levels it offers.
Gray Collegiate Academy, a public charter school in West Columbia, started work Feb. 24 to add three new classrooms, a conference room and an office space. According to Brian Newsome, the school's principal, the idea is to add sixth grade to the grades offered, which currently range from seventh to 12th.
Newsome said the main goal is to reduce class sizes to about 18-22 students. He added that most classes meet that mark already, though a few outliers get up to 26 students.
“Our research shows class size is the biggest predictor of success,” Newsome said. “So we're trying to make sure we capitalize on that as we grow. We don't wanna lose track of that”
The expansion to the school on Leaphart Road just off U.S. Highway 378/Sunset Boulevard is a $1.2 million project that is being funded through on-hand cash along with federal funds and is expected to be completed by June 1. Newsome said that a lot of the infrastructure in terms of plumbing and electricity was already near the expansion site, making it conducive to adding additional spaces.
The project continues a wave of expansion at Gray Collegiate, as the school opened its new 1,500-seat gymnasium in January after taking about a year to complete.
Adding sixth grade isn't definite in terms of how the expansion will be used, with a final decision on that forthcoming. Newsome said the community has shown a lot of interest in the idea.
“They're begging us to open more grade levels. I have emails, countless emails from parents begging us to open more grade levels,” Newsome said. “So they can have a quality education because the school system they’re currently in right now is not providing that.”
If added, the school would begin accepting sixth graders for the 2023-2024 school year. According to Newsome, the school will enroll around 50 new students, which he said is lower than the average average grade size, but will keep with the expansion's goal of reducing class size.
Sixth grade would be the third grade level the school has added in the past three years, with seventh and eighth grades having previously been introduced.
Newsome said that within his seven years at the school, they have increased from 342 students in attendance with 30 staff members to 806 students and 56 staff members
“We're all here for the kids,” the principal said.
The work to complete the expansion brings some temporary changes to school operations.
“With this new construction, we will close off the exit in the back of the new wing to the courtyard,” the school posted to Facebook. “The only exits out of the new classroom wing will be from the front of the school or down the hall of the academic building. The entrance to the new branch will be through the academic building or the front of the school. The parking lot beside the old gym will also be closed off.”
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