EASTON — A tuition-free private community school is opening for the upcoming school year in Easton.
Polaris Village Academy, located on Jowite Street, will be offering pre-K and kindergarten classes at no cost to parents starting August 21.
Students from the Polaris Village Ministries day care, which is currently based out of the same building as the academy, will be prioritized in the application and enrollment process. Factors such as a families income will affect a students chances of enrollment are still being evaluated, according to Derick Daly, trustee president of Polaris Village Ministries, Inc.
The school, which is open to the general public, subscribes to an individualized learning philosophy — evaluating, prioritizing, and adhering to an individual students’ own ways of understanding and broadening their skills from there.
Classes will be limited to 10 students with one class per grade level. While the Academy is opening with pre-K and kindergarten classes initially, the school plans to introduce one new pre-K class every year, while former students will move up grade level all the way through 8th grade, where the academy’s curriculum ends.
There are plans to construct a new school building to accompany the growing demand and population of the academy.
Whether or not students may enter the school or fill vacancies in grade levels other than pre-K has yet to be determined, although the academy is positioning itself and its 10-year course as an exclusive experience.
“We want the school to be balanced,” said Daly, who is also the founder of the nonprofit organization, Building African American Minds (BAAM). “We want our students to see all different types of learning styles and learning levels when they start.”
In addition to general education topics like math, English, and science, the academy is also developing an experiential, community-based curriculum that includes courses in music and gardening. The academy’s pilot pre-K class, for instance, took classes in self-defense last school year.
“We believe in having kids go out in the community and interact with the community,” said Head of School Jymil Thompson. “We want our kids to leave our school and be able to help their community, to build and create good atmosphere, climate, and culture within their own community.”
Polaris Village Academy is what’s known as a community school, an educational institution that also acts as a hub for community life and resources. Students will have access to a physical trainer, speech therapist and social worker. Students will be required to meet with their social worker weekly, and monthly meetings are required with the families of the students.
“Say for instance, a kid comes to school [upset]. We know what issues have already taken place because the social worker knows, the parent knows, and the school knows,” Thompson explained. “We believe that trifecta, or triangular approach, will help build strong students and families.”
The academy is able to offer free tuition through private donations — including those from William Ryan, the current president of BAAM — and the profit generated from the ministry’s day care. It will also receive donations in conjunction with the opening and operation of 14 new workforce housing units from Naima Ventures, LLC, a company run by Daly’s sons, Kendrick and Andrew.
The units — which will be located across Jowite, Clay, and Port streets — will be offered to first responders, teachers, and medical professionals. While organizations like Choptank Community Health System are also providing resources to students, the school is also looking for volunteers to add their skills to the school’s collective toolkit in order to get as much community aid and garner as much influence as possible.
“We want to form a great partnership and be totally transparent with the community,” Thompson said. “I think that’s highly important if we’re going to be effective as an educational system, but also like a community.”