Credit: Journal photo by Jessica Wilt
On June 24, 2022, our school welcomed hundreds of local families to campus for our first Open House. The Journal’s Jessical Wilt was on hand to document the event that marks an important milestone in EPPA’s inaugural school year.
KEARNEYSVILLE — Traffic backed up on Rose Hill Drive in Kearneysville on Thursday evening, and the line of interested families wrapped around Founder’s Hall as the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy hosted an open house.
The academy is on the cusp of opening this fall as the beginning of charter schools kicks off in West Virginia.
“We have had a warm reception from the community and families here in Jefferson County, and our enrollment numbers have exceeded expectations,” said Sharon Williams, the regional vice president for Accel Schools. “We are so excited to open our campus to new and prospective families and share our plans for the start of our first school year.”
The academy will serve students in pre-K through Grade 10, with 247 enrolled and 81 in the application process, as reported earlier this month.
“We are very pleased with the interest and want to remind everyone who is in the application phase that they must turn in all required documents to be fully enrolled,” Woodley said. “Enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis until each grade level fills.”
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools defines charter schools as “independently operated public schools that have the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the exacting standards outlined in their ‘charter.’”
For many families who attended the open house, it gave them a chance to possibly seek a different educational environment for their students.
“I was really interested in putting her more in a private school, but there aren’t really any options around us, other than some of the faith-related ones in the area, which aren’t even super close for us,” mother Peggy Price said. “We’re out in Charles Town, closer to Berryville. So when this one popped up, we were just very interested in having her attend for a little more specialized focus, rather than getting lost in a public school. That was definitely a worry of ours.”
She and her 5-year-old daughter walked the grounds as families enjoyed a bounce house, snacks and games, in addition to the tour and informational opportunities. Price said the classroom style definitely interests her family.
“The one thing I do like that they do is they have a standard classroom, but they will break them up into smaller, core groups based on where they are. If they need a little bit more help in reading, they’ll focus in that small group for that,” Price said. “If they’re more advanced, they can advance into other topics. That definitely interested me. And just the smaller school setting, rather than the massive public schools.”
Similarly, Jonelle Westbrook, of Bunker Hill, is looking forward to her 9-year-old daughter being in a small setting for classes. Westbrook’s daughter, who is already enrolled, had ADHD, which the family believes will benefit from the new environment.
“It was just looking for a different type of environment for her and small classrooms, not as rigid sitting at a desk the entire time, just seeing how that works out for her,” Westbrook said. “I think it will work better for her.”
Like Price, Westbrook was drawn to the small classrooms, as well.
“When we were walking through, we saw the classrooms, which are smaller,” she said. “It looks like it’ll be a more core group. It’s not like an overabundance of kids. That’s usually what the problem is, is there’s too many kids.”
As her daughter yelled from the bounce house that she made a new friend, Westbrook laughed that her daughter is excited for the coming school year. The mother also noted several of her friends from public school were at the open house, a pleasant surprise for the 9-year-old.
The Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy came to be as interested community members came together to form a board of directors, said Danyelle Knight Woodley, with the academy. From there, the group contacted ACCEL Schools, a charter school management group, that was hired by the board this past spring.
“We’re very excited to be in West Virginia,” Woodley said. “This is historic — voters asked for charter schools, and we are the lucky ones who get to deliver.”
The local academy is one of three brick-and-mortar charter schools to open this fall, and two more will open virtually, including the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia and Mountain State Learning Solutions, also called West Virginia Virtual Academy. The Professional Charter School Board approved three physical charter schools last year: the Nitro Preparatory Academy, in Kanawha County, the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy and the West Virginia Academy, in Monongalia County.