Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.
Mount Airy City Schools (MACS) is ahead of the curve in academic preparation. We accelerate children at every level. “Acceleration” means that we allow students to move faster through the traditional curriculum and work ahead. This is important because the state standards are just a baseline for how much can be and should be learned at each grade level.
BH Tharrington Primary has a nurturing program. This helps all children find their area of giftedness. We have individualized instruction for all children working at their pace and exposing many students to “above grade level” curriculum. An individual pathway makes sure all students are able to move at a pace that is comfortable for them.
The Academically and Intellectually Gifted program at JJ Jones Intermediate identifies students in third grade for a separate setting in fourth and fifth grades. This allows the students to move at a much faster pace than the standard curriculum and allows them to explore topics beyond their grade level. Our teacher can also compact the curriculum to help all students go at a pace that may include several grade levels. We have specialized equipment that allows fifth grade students who qualify to attend a middle school course virtually with a teacher from Mount Airy Middle School every day. While many schools across the nation have cut gifted programming, we have expanded it.
Our MicroSchool has helped students who need to move at an even faster pace and who may be two grade levels ahead. The MicroSchool allows students to be at home learning online for part of the week and enjoy a “place-based” learning experience once a week. This year they have come together for STEAM activities and experiments and many environmental excursions. We may have a first grade student learning second or third grade concepts and working with students from upper grade levels each week.
Another program, Dual Language Immersion (DLI) is so popular that it often has a waiting list. This program allows students to be fluent in Spanish and English, taking Spanish a majority of the day in K-second grade and 50% of the day in third through fifth. The DLI program has now extended to middle school where students will take advanced courses in Spanish and learn to apply their Spanish in many ways throughout the real world.
The middle school acceleration model encourages students who are ahead in mathematics to take advanced courses beginning in the sixth grade.
Once students have entered the eighth grade they have many options. If they are ready to take high school courses for credit, we offer our High School Accelerate where English I, Math 1, Earth and Environmental Science, Spanish I, and American History I are taken during their eighth grade. They take these high school courses face-to-face with experienced and highly qualified teachers. We even have students who have virtually joined our high school sophomore courses to make sure they are not held back but pushed forward.
Our North Carolina Association of Scholastic Activities challenges all students and helps them stretch their academic skills. Mount Airy Middle School has been able to win the statewide cup and place every year because of the amazing students we have and how well they compete across the state.
Our summer programs allow for all students to explore their passions. The summer programs are built around the theme of STEAM and match the summer program to students’ natural interests. The program in the summer is an extensive menu of free summer programs and activities from kindergarten through twelfth grade. We encourage you to watch for the menu of options coming soon.
The last piece of our acceleration puzzle is the high school academic program. The many pathways to success allow for all students to be involved in honors and college courses. Ninety percent of our students attend a two- or four-year university and taking care of their general courses in high school can save them thousands of dollars. The support system at Mount Airy High School allows students to take Advanced Placement courses for college credit while giving the students the support they need to be successful in those courses. The College and Career Promise Courses provide the opportunity for all children to take courses through Surry Community College. The credits they receive help them with college success.
The career and technical education courses also provide many certification programs and exciting internships with businesses right here in our county. Students can learn to fly a drone, become a pilot, become an entrepreneur, create 3D models, design websites, explore all health science careers, and learn to cook. All schools get the opportunity to travel and our strategic plan encourages us to return to traveling outside of the state and country. Many of these trips have included trips to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and China. We can’t wait for our students to begin to learn outside the walls of our school again.
Our families love our ability to “accelerate” their children. We get feedback each year on this program and try to cater to the needs of students. We know every child is gifted, we want to find how they are gifted and use their educational support to match their gifts. If you are interested in our program please visit: https://bit.ly/3sYzcnf
For more information or if you want to become a Granite Bear please contact us and visit our website at : https://www.mtairy.k12.nc.us/