In the fall of 2016, students in K through eighth grade will be able to attend a new school in Monroe – the Monroe Country Day School.
At a meeting to introduce the public to the concept of a country day school, Dr. Rita Dickinson, founder of the Monroe Country Day School, explained the concept and gave a timeline for parents who may want to enroll their children. The school will begin in the Fall of 2016 with K-eighth grade initially, but may add a grade the following year depending on the circumstances. The school will be in what once was the old Mill School on S. Broad Street in the Old Mill district.
“The building is going to be renovated and will be ready for us,” Dickinson said. “It may not look like much now, but when I walk in there I see all the possibilities.”
Dickinson said that she already has teachers recruited who share her vision for teaching under the Country Day School concept .
“Every one of them has been a Teacher of the Year and come with excellent credentials,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson, who is a long-time educator in Walton County and director of 21st Century Community Learning Centers for Walton County, said she was called to start this school because she was frustrated with the way students are taught under the regular school system. In clarifying her frustration Dickinson said that while she she sees excellent teaching everyday in public and private schools in this county, her frustration comes from so much of the state and federal guidelines and required assessments.
“All children do not fit the models that are available presently. It does not mean present schools do not have a good model. Many children are responding well and are challenged. This is another option for a different approach; that promotes academic excellence through creative learning, independent thinking, and selfless service to others,” Dickinson said.
At MCDS student will be taught to become independent thinkers and to use critical thinking to solve problems. The school will have to comply with certain standards, however, in order to be accredited. Dickinson said the accreditation process will take three years. There are other details that still have to be worked out, such as how to accommodate sport and extra curricular activities. The school hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
On the Facebook page for Monroe Country Day School, a description of the school belief system states, in part, “children grow in character and become independent thinkers through a balance of scholarly enterprise and active participation in service learning and the arts. Talented, dedicated and passionate teachers who hold high expectations and find fulfillment in their work are the greatest mentors for our students. Students succeed because they have been taught to strive for excellence, value hard work, think critically, collaborate productively, express themselves thoughtfully, step outside their comfort zone and overcome the challenges. Our students bring a variety of perspectives, personalities and passions; this diversity makes the school a community where each can learn from all. We are privileged to be educating the next generation of leaders for our community, our city and our nation; and we know that their success depends upon their integrity; capacity for managing complexity; adaptability and perseverance; and confidence in embarking upon ambitious undertakings. Students have different skills or learning styles. That’s why we create a learning environment that allows children to progress according to their potential.”
The short version of the mission is, “Inspiring a passion for academic excellence through creative learning, independent thinking, and selfless service to others.” Included in the curriculum will be service projects and field trips to help students develop character and grow into community leaders.
At the meeting Dickinson explained that students will learn to think and do for themselves and will have the opportunity to learn in a way and pace that works for them. If a student can read at a fifth-grade level, but is only in second grade, under the Country Day School model that student would be able to spend time reading with the fifth-grade students instead of having to study at a level lower than his or her capabilities. Being in a central location in Monroe, students will be able to walk to points of interest for field trips or service projects, such at to the new Monroe Museum, to the Art Guild and to the Historic Courthouse.
Parents wishing to apply to attend MCDS in the fall of 2016 can contact the school to register for an interview.
“The parents and students will be interviewed to see if this is a right fit for the child,” Dickinson said. “It isn’t for every child. Students learn different ways. This gives students an opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them.”
The cost for the 2016/2017 school year will be $6,750 per student with discounts that apply for Monroe residents and for multiple students from one family. A Board of Directors has been established and the school is looking for volunteers from the community and families of the potential student body.