It’s lottery season in Wake County. Not the megamillion kind, but the kind when thousands of parents apply for charter school placement for the upcoming school year. With just minimal information and a click of a button, your child’s academic trajectory is sent into the cyber-abyss for a chance to attend these unique public schools.
Uniqueness is what makes charter schools in our area so coveted. It’s time-consuming to research websites and attend open houses to understand what each charter school has to offer. And let’s face it, most have a great sales pitch. So when it came time to accept my son’s spot at Envision Science Academy, it was the parents’ perspective of the school that made the difference.
Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.
I grabbed a fellow Envision kindergarten parent (we’ll call her P2) and sat down to discuss our experience with ESA thus far. Note: I chose to focus on Kindergarten since the majority of openings for the 2019-2020 school year are available for K versus grades 1-8)
Before we begin here is Envision Science Academy’s official mission statement:
“Envision Science Academy is a K-8 STEAM public charter school that provides tuition-free education to all North Carolina students. Our mission is to provide innovative instruction through experiential learning with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) in order to prepare elementary and middle school students to compete, lead, and excel in the global marketplace. Our vision is, by engaging in project based learning, students will be prepared to pursue STEAM related careers and become lifelong learners.”
Sounds cool, right? It is.
Q: WHY DID YOU APPLY TO ESA?
Me: At first I didn’t. My oldest happily attends our base elementary school so when it was my son’s turn for kindergarten, I indifferently dipped my toe into the charter school lottery by only applying to Endeavor. Soon after, I had coffee with a friend who attended an Envision open house and couldn’t stop raving about the school. The application period was still open so I thought, why not?
P2: My daughter is very shy and we thought a smaller school with smaller class sizes would be a good environment for her. After thorough research, we applied to Endeavor and Envision. Both are located in Wake Forest and in decent proximity to where we live in North Raleigh.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR ACCEPTANCE EXPERIENCE LIKE?
Me: We landed so far down the waitlist I immediately moved forward and forgot about it. Two days before his staggered entry day at our traditional base school, we received an acceptance email and had 24-hrs to decide. Kicking myself for my earlier “why not” research strategy, ESA gave our family the cliff notes version of an open house and tour that same afternoon. My husband, a tech industry professional, left the tour and remarked, “that’s the way I wish I had gotten to learn,” referring to project-based learning. Still unsure I wanted to change course so late in the game, I hunted down parents of current ESA students and received only glowing reviews. It quickly became obvious our pros outweighed our cons, like our children attending different schools, and we accepted. It was a rocky, emotional start for the whole family, but he settled in nicely after the second week.
P2: We were waitlisted as well, but received our acceptance email two months before school started. We had four days to decide. It was stressful as we had prepared for her to attend our year-round base, which all her neighborhood friends were set to attend as well. I, too, attended our base school as a child so it was nostalgic for me to have my daughter do the same. I felt like I was deciding the rest of her life. My husband, who did all the heavy research in the beginning, had no hesitations sending her to ESA.
Me: I agree it was a super stressful decision. Must be a mom thing.
Q: WHAT HAS STOOD OUT TO YOU REGARDING THE ACADEMICS OR UNIQUENESS OF THE SCHOOL?
Me: This is hard to answer from the perspective of Kindergarten. When I compare my son’s experience to my daughter’s K experience at our base school, it is often similar in terms of what they learn– Letterland, sight words, how to read, same math principals, etc. However, there’s a feeling of something special happening at ESA that I can’t quite articulate. A sense of freedom in the way teachers teach? Less rigid, maybe? My son really loves school. He also loves the specials kindergarten students experience each week–music, art, PE, STEAM lab, and Mandarin. He particularly loves STEAM lab and Mandarin. Knowing STEAM lab becomes part of each school day in later grades is another plus.
P2: I have witnessed my daughter grow quite a bit since the start of school. Going to a different school than her friends has allowed her to become more confident and make decisions for herself As I mentioned, she is shy, and we are starting to see her take initiative to try new things and explore her passions. She is doing fine academically and also loves her specials. I don’t have a comparison since she is our oldest, but we expect to see ESA pull away in similarities from our base school as she moves through lower school and into upper school.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PARENT INVOLVEMENT?
Me: ESA does not require parent volunteer hours, but there are plenty of parent involvement opportunities and needs. Way more than our base school. It felt overwhelming at first, but truly you can do as much or as little as you prefer. There is definitely a lot of school pride. I have found volunteering is the very best way to meet other ESA parents and to see the school day in action.
P2: Again, I have nothing to compare it too, but I feel like what is asked of us is fair. I do feel it can be difficult to be in the know at times.
Q: WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT ESA? GOOD OR BAD.
Me: Uniform life feels like a pain at first and then it becomes a huge blessing. It makes our mornings much easier, especially since ESA Lower school begins at 8 AM. I’ve also been surprised by the staff– everyone is overly friendly, helpful, and knows my child.
P2: Carpool is super efficient!
Me: ESA often has fun family events like the Silly Sweater Skate at Jellybeans.
Envision Science Academy will be accepting applications for open seats in grades K-8 for the 2019-2020 school year beginning January 28, 2019. Click here for more information about ESA and their application process.
Bottom Line: Go Eagles!