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School choice week kicks off with charter innovation fair

On Saturday, charter schools from around North Carolina participated in a Charter School Innovation Showcase at the Raleigh Convention Center. Hosted by the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools (NCAPCS), parents and children were able to talk with principals, teachers, and other representatives about various educational opportunities.

This event kicked off National School Choice Week, which aims to spotlight K-12 education options for students.

Sign at the NCAPCS Charter School Innovation Showcase. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

NCAPCS is a nonprofit advocacy organization that informs the public on charter school news, offers professional development opportunities for teachers at charter schools, and pushes for “equitable policy for our state’s charter schools” by developing an annual legislative agenda.

Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of NCAPCS, said that the main goal of the event was to bring awareness to families about the various educational programs that charter schools offer in North Carolina.

“We want to make sure that they are able to have a good fit for their child and the educational programming that appeals to that student’s learning style. Every child learns differently. And that’s one of the things that is so beautiful about charter schools,” said Dillingham. “They all have their own unique mission, their own unique way that they educate students, and we want to make sure that families are aware of that.”

Fifteen charter schools were represented on Saturday, mostly from the Triangle but with some traveling from as far as Brevard. Some schools offered dual-language programs, while others boasted a middle school mountain biking team.

CE Academy of Wake County, which focuses on an immersive Chinese and English bilingual education, was giving out tokens for the Chinese new year. Longleaf School of the Arts had a student to talk with prospective families and a table full of mixed media projects from scholars.

Booth at the NC Charter School Innovation Showcase. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

GeRita Connor is head of school at Casa Esperanza Montessori. She has worked at a virtual charter school, a traditional charter school, in general education, and in special education. Connor even worked for the Department of Defense as a teacher. She has been a traditional school teacher and a parent of a traditional school student. All these experiences give her a unique perspective on school choice.

“There’s so many limitations I think sometimes that we put on families like, you live here, this is where you go to school, if you’re here, this is what you do. And I think school choice and the movement, that direction we’re heading right now, no matter where you live, no matter what other limitations you may have, this gives you the opportunity to have access to schooling that you may not have had otherwise,” said Connor.

The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools hosts a school fair during National School Choice Week on Jan. 25. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

NCAPCS reported that over 200 parents and students attended the Charter School Innovation Showcase. Parents left with bags full of resources, school brochures, and the book The School Choice Roadmap, all provided by NCAPCS.

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.