Woman plans new Christian school
Published 2:55 pm Friday, January 22, 2016
A Portsmouth educator plans to open a new Christian school in North Suffolk in September.
Star Pointe Academy will use out-of-the-box methods to teach so-called “STEAM” subjects, said Brena Daniels, a program specialist with Portsmouth Public Schools and founder of Star Pointe. STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, all subjects that many educators nationwide believe will better prepare students for the 21st century.
Daniels, who develops curriculum and teacher assessments in Portsmouth, intends for Star Pointe to be a high-tech, Christian-focused school that cultivates students’ entrepreneurial and leadership skills from a young age.
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“We have redesigned the educational blueprint for what students need in today’s world,” Daniels said. “We want to turn out students who are tech-savvy, who love God and who want and are prepared to make an impact on the world.”
Although she intends to open Star Pointe next fall, many details are still in limbo. Daniels hopes to nail down the specific site within the next two weeks, somewhere in the Harbour View area.
Daniels says she and her board members are actively fundraising to generate the projected $1.9 million operating budget.
The school is a registered nonprofit organization with the Internal Revenue Service and she has applied for multiple grants for the school, Daniels said. Once school starts, tuition will cover a portion of expenses, she added.
The annual tuition will be $12,500, with discounts ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 depending upon financial need, Daniels said.
For next year, Star Pointe is accepting up to 150 students between sixth and ninth grades, Daniels said. So far, 55 students from Suffolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake have signed on to attend.
Ultimately, Star Pointe will serve students from sixth to 12 grades, Daniels said. The school will add a grade each year until it is accredited, a process that typically takes up to three years.
“We don’t want any child leaving here graduating from an unaccredited school,” Daniels said. She plans to begin the accreditation process immediately after school opens.
Every student at Star Pointe Academy will be issued a Bible and an iPad, Daniels said. Students will be required to provide their own laptops.
Average class size will be between 18 and 20 students, Daniels said.
In designing the curriculum, Daniels has combined ideas and techniques she believes are effective from Stanford and Harvard universities, a Christian school in Australia, and math-teaching techniques used in Singapore.
Students will also attend interactive morning worship, learn Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, and have daily physical education in a Planet Fitness-like environment, Daniels said.
No core classes will be held on Wednesdays, Daniels said. That day will be spent developing students’ social and entrepreneurial skills with occasional help from professional mentors.
As part of that initiative, student teams will form mock corporations and be asked to tackle aspects of a social problem, such as homelessness. The “corporation” will be responsible for writing a business plan, presenting proposals, acquiring mock seed money, designing a product and looking for ways to produce it. Professional mentors will help by advising students on product feasibility and helping them problem-solve various issues.
“We want to teach them to be business-savvy leaders,” Daniels said. “We also want to make sure our kids have a mind for service.
“We will give them plenty of opportunities to volunteer and experience mission trips.”
Rather than hiring elective teachers, the school will use an online service that helps students follow their individual passions, Daniels said.
Open houses will be held at the Comfort Inn, 5409 Plummer Blvd., Suffolk. The open houses are scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. Jan. 29 and 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 1. A teacher recruiting fair is scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 4.