Grand opening ceremonies will be held Aug. 1 for Pioneer Springs Community School, a non-profit private school that plans to begin its first kindergarten and first grade classes later that month in the historic Croft Schoolhouse on Bob Beatty Road, just off N.C. 115 near Reames Road. The historic site is a few hundred yards north of the equally historic yet still open S.W. Davis General Store.
Founded by three north Mecklenburg couples, with hands-on assistance from local education professionals, Pioneer Springs will adopt the "basic school philosophy" of instruction similar to that offered at Community School of Davidson and Corvian Community School.
CSD has proven extremely popular with a long waiting list. Corvian, in Charlotte, opened as a private school patterned after CSD and is switching to charter school status. Together, CSD and Corvian have a waiting list of more than 3,000 students.
Cheryl Demers, a school founder who will serve as director, classroom assistant and administrator of the health and natural connections program at Pioneer Springs, said the three founding couples — she and her husband Brian, Abigail Jennings and Randolph Lewis, and Erin McDonald and Erik Giles — all wanted their children to continue the educational experience they were introduced to at The Children's Schoolhouse and Corvian.
"Our children thrived with the basic school philosophy," Demers says. "When Corvian became a charter school, none of the founding families were admitted through the lottery. We then decided we needed to start our own school with the same philosophy."
Jennings, who will be finance director and a board member for Pioneer Springs, said the group's goal was to "create a new school with the educational philosophies we believed in."
In developing the Pioneer Springs' curriculum, the founders acquired input from Lisa Humphries, a veteran CSD teacher and an educational advisor for Corvian. Humphries' role is to interpret the basic school philosophy and help the administrators and teachers transfer it to the new school.
"This education model is what I believe is best for all kids," says Humphries, a teacher at CSD since it opened in 2004. "I have seen it first-hand. Our model of education honors the magic of childhood and the celebratory nature of children."
Tanya Chartier, an adjunct lecturer in education at Davidson, is also an advocate of the basic school philosophy and a Pioneer Springs board member.
"As a parent, I have seen the benefits of learning in such a loving and supportive community for my son who is at CSD," she says. "I am excited that Pioneer Springs will offer more children a similar learning environment."
Other members of the school's board of directors are Kristin Clewell, Sandra Knox and Susan Massengill.
At the Aug. 1 grand opening, set to begin at 4 p.m. followed by an open house at 6, Humphries will present a detailed summary of the school's philosophy. In addition, a brief history of the schoolhouse, which open in 1890, will be presented by Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and professor of history at UNC Charlotte.