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Back to School: Charterhouse School in Edinburg boasts successful first year

Kaleb Kapp, 10, of Shenandoah County, raises his hand to answer a question during a summer class at the Charterhouse School - Edinburg. Josette Keelor/Daily

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Tonya S. Goodwin, principal of Charterhouse School in Edinburg stands in a classroom the school will begin using this school year. Preparing for its second year, the school has hired two new instructors and a school nurse. Josette Keelor/Daily

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By Josette Keelor

EDINBURG -- In a recent summer school class at Charterhouse School - Edinburg, children shouted answers about countries they had studied over the last six weeks.

When elementary school teacher Sheila Hershey asked what "trousers" are in England, 9-year-old Jaiden Lane of Harrisonburg was quick to answer "pants," gaining a point for herself and a teammate.

"In the afternoon in England, they have 'blank' time," Hershey prompted, earning an assured answer from 10-year-old Shenandoah County resident Kaleb Kapp: "Tea."

Students lost out on points when they didn't raise their hands before answering, but they adapted quickly in the interest of winning the game -- a review before the summer course ended on Aug. 7.

The summer program followed the Charterhouse School's first year of day-school education for children with special learning requirements, and Principal Tonya Salley-Goodwin said she's excited for the second year, beginning Aug. 25.

She thanked the community for being supportive of the school as it sought to prove itself enough during its first year to grow into the second year.

Last year the school opened to questions about its effectiveness helping students having trouble learning in area public schools versus its cost for the county.

"I think this past year has answered that question," Goodwin said. "We've been very successful in sending students back to the school system."

"And that's our ultimate goal here is for our students to return back to the public school system," she said.

The school ended the year with 26 students, after sending two students back to Strasburg High School and Stonewall Jackson High, and graduating two others from Shenandoah and Rockingham schools.

Of those students, half are from Shenandoah County Public Schools, which addressed the matter in a June school board meeting, determining in a report, "Overall, the SCPS students have experienced social, emotional and academic success." The 13 students were split about even among elementary, middle and high school level, the report said.

Goodwin said she expects to open the new school year with 30 students, with "potential for growth from there."

Situated in the old Edinburg High School on Piccadilly Street in Edinburg, the school's capacity is 60. Since the last school year, it added two classes, hired two teachers and brought on a part-time literary specialist and a part-time school nurse.

"That's very exciting for us as well," Goodwin said. Previously students would see a nurse from Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Classes are divided into age level groups based on the number of students represented. Elementary classes cover first through fifth grade, middle school sixth and seventh grades, middle-high eighth and ninth, and high school 10th through 12th.

Goodwin said the large group of eighth and ninth graders required its own class, though other classes might have only one or two students per grade. The school teaches ages 6 to 22.

Now with six full-time academic teachers who rotate among the classrooms for core subjects, the school also has three elective teachers teaching PE, art and culinary arts in their own classrooms, and about 10 tutors partnering with Charterhouse through local United Methodist Church programs.

Students are referred from their schools after teachers meet with parents on the best course of remediation for students when their needs cannot be met in the public school system.

Since opening last fall, Goodwin said, "the community has embraced us and has supported us throughout the school year." Qualifying students have received food from area nonprofit organization Luke's Backpack to bring home to their families on weekends.

The school participates in music therapy at Shenandoah University in Winchester and sponsors twice-monthly generosity projects at the Gift & Thrift Store in Harrisonburg and Cross Keys Equine Farm by Mount Crawford. Students also adopted owls at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, feeding them and watching their progress through online video streams.

Based in Richmond, Charterhouse School is affiliated with United Methodist Family Services. Last year's addition in Edinburg was the Charterhouse School's first satellite location, and Goodwin, previously vice principal at the Richmond school, said Edinburg's school welcomes students on an as-needed basis. Its student body currently pulls from the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Shenandoah, Rockingham, Albemarle, Page, Warren and most recently Clarke.

"We are Charterhouse School, we're one school," Goodwin said. "We have become true, unwavering champions for children and families in this community."

Contact Charterhouse School - Edinburg at 540-984-6266 or at http://tiny.cc/5qoakx.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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