REIDSVILLE — Teachers and staff were scurrying the halls at Moss Street Partnership School this week, arranging bright new furnishings and rolling in touch screen boards that will revolutionize the elementary school’s classrooms.
After a successful first year under the guidance of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the historically low-performing school is getting good feedback from parents, increasing enrollment and offering a super-charged curriculum, administrators said.
“A lot of parents have said their kids liked school and enjoyed being here. We even had parents coming to us, saying their kids were asking to go to the public library for the first time and their kids were enjoying reading books,’’ said Dr. Christina O’Connor, co-director of the so-called laboratory school with resources from the UNC-G School of Education.
“We’re trying to do lots of different things with parents and get them excited about what we’re doing here,’’ O’Connor said. “We want parents to feel like they know what’s going on. They’re our partners and we want to make sure they feel welcome and informed.’’
“We had a lot of positive feedback last year, and we are getting a lot of feedback that kids are excited to come back,’’ O’Connor said, leading a tour of classrooms to show bright layouts of new chairs and tables.
UNC-G was able to take over the elementary school last year through a mandate from North Carolina lawmakers that in 2016-2017 gave the go ahead to nine UNC system universities to partner with struggling schools in their communities and create alliances by creating so-called “laboratory schools.’’
While enrollment hovered around 375 throughout last year, O’Connor said she expected about 400 students to sign Moss Street rosters for fall.
“We are currently fielding phone calls from people who would like to enroll and we are still enrolling at all grade levels for the coming year,’’ O’Connor said Thursday. “And we’re in the process of adding another kindergarten teacher,’’ she said, explaining extra staff will balance the student teacher ratio of 18-1.
“We’re calling our families from last year and inviting them to open house … making that personal contact,’’ O’ Connor said of the upcoming Tuesday evening event during which parents and students may tour the school and meet teachers.
Visitors will have the chance to meet a new assistant principal, as well.
Michael Brown, formerly a staffer with the Chapel Hill/Carrboro public schools, recently joined Moss Street in a position that was not filled last year. He will help lead day-to-day operations with longtime area educator and principal Catina Chestnut.
Brown, a Durham native, said he was inspired to apply for his post after hearing Chesnut and UNC-G’s Dr. Carl Langley describe their efforts at Moss Street.
“I thought it was an amazing model,’’ said Brown, a father of a five-year-old daughter who commutes from Mebane daily. “So when I saw the assistant principal position open, I thought it was something I had to apply for after hearing them speak so passionately about what’s going on here and all the great things they are doing for kids.’’
The task of elevating test scores at Moss Street will take time, administrators reminded, explaining marks from last year’s standardized tests have not been finalized by the N.C. Department of Instruction.
By implementing a highly interactive curriculum with focus on science, technology, environment, arts and mathematics, teachers strive to engage youngsters in a holistic way that sees a lot of crossover between the disciplines.
And rigorous continuing education for teachers is a big push at Moss Street, as well. On Thursday, teachers were brushing up on technology with fellow instructor and information technology expert Jeri Brown.
Hopefully, the infusion of resources from UNC-G and engaging curriculum will stimulate better performance from the school where about 98% of students live in poverty.
In past years, in fact, the school had received a letter grade D from the North Carolina Board of Education and a statewide ranking of 1,218 out of 1,429 state elementary schools.
Those lows are hopefully in the rear-view mirror, though, as staff bolster classrooms with turn style book kiosks and initiate specialty seminars teachers will offer students this year.
“Having books in the classrooms gives them easy access,’’ O’Connor said. “ It kind of looks like Barnes and Noble. They can pick books out more easily because they are face out, and we have some of the café style seating, so it feels inviting.’’
Indeed, the 27 educators and five enhancement teachers will design specialty courses to lead on topics ranging from songwriting and ukulele, to puppetry and robotics.
And students will find every supply they need, provided at no cost, when they enter classrooms on Day 1.
“We want them to have the best, and they’re going to have every opportunity and resource available to them,’’ O’Connor said.