Members McPherson College's Education Department, along with others in the state, are perusing an initiative for a new charter school in Mount Hope.
The school was previously a kindergarten through eighth-grade school but was closed in 2011 due to budget cuts. Since then, a tri-fold team — made up of the school's former district, Haven, the Mount Hope community and McPherson College — has joined together to revive the school with a new focus. Its rebirth will be a new charter school for kindergarten through 12th-graders.
Although the vision is by no means solidified, the planning team recognizes the importance of approaching school in a new way — one that encompasses the city's values of neighborliness, community involvement and project-based learning. This, they concluded, would be what the school needed to survive.
On the McPherson College side is professor Mark Malaby and his education graduate students, currently volunteers working to establish a master's program.
"Entrepreneurship is the fabric of education and community development," Malaby said. "The way it's being defined here is almost part of being a good citizen. It's heat we can align those initiatives with the people down south."
The entrepreneurship learning will differ depending on grade level. Younger students will focus on the benefits of rural living, while older students will participate and pursue community development projects, such as establishing festivals or business in Mount Hope or other communities. State standards will then be crafted around and met through the projects.
"It's exactly the way life works," he said. "They're going to get the education they need, but it's going to be very real. There's no end to the way you can do that in education. What you'll find is kids coming home who are extremely excited about what they're doing everyday in school."
And much like the Mount Hope students, Malaby's graduate students also are gaining applicable, real-life experience. The college will continue to work with the school, whether it hits its August-planned opening or not.
"Education has some things to learn, one of those things is fear of failure," he said. "We learn from failure and coming to a dead end and needing to back up. I believe the way to learn is to do the thing you're learning about."
MC has been working with the project since September. Significant progress has been made recently, however.
The idea for the school's rebirth was most recently approved by the Haven School District school board at the city of Mount Hope. A charter application was submitted to the state two weeks ago — the only submission given this year. The planning teams should receive a response within the next few months.
The first town hall meeting about the project was in Mount Hope Monday. Almost 30 individuals from the community and the planning teams attended.
Page 2 of 2 - "They really liked what they heard and are clamoring for more information," Malaby said. "There's a lot of good energy that came out of the meeting."
Malaby said the project is having a snowball effect, with more and more individuals jumping on board. A number of donors have expressed their interest in donating significant amounts of money to see the idea come to fruition.
"People in the community really want this," he said. "It's a tight-knit community. The people who live here are very invested."
The planning teams, however, recognize the closing resulted in suffering of Mount Hope's economy. The closing had a ripple affect, causing many families to move elsewhere.
Student recruitment, then, would have to stretch farther than just families inside the school's district. Malaby said that could mean families in northwest Wichita, homeschoolers intrigued by the alternative teaching structure, and others who have struggled with the traditional learning environment like he did.
"Because we're doing something different, people are typically cautious," he said. "We're trying really hard to make it clear we're not the same people, and getting behind this will be the only chance of getting a school opened there."
Those who are interested in applications or information about the new school may contact Mthopechartercontact@gmail.com or call 316-530-3148.
Although more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon, the planning team will be searching for funding partners in the near future. Individuals on the planning team estimate $300,000 will be needed to reopen the school.
Contact Jenae Pauls at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel