A CMS Pre-K to 8th grade neighborhood school located in the Renaissance neighborhood will be called the Renaissance West STEAM Academy (RWSA). The STEAM academy (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) will have a strong literacy focus at every grade. The school will serve as a community hub for The Renaissance and have an integrated focus on academics, health and family services, youth programs and community engagement. This integrated approach will contribute to academic achievement, strong families and healthier communities. The Renaissance school will be the centerpiece of the community open to everyone for extended school hours, including on evenings and weekends.
The education model will be grounded in the success of the Charles R. Drew School, part of the Villages of East Lake community in Atlanta. The improvements and success at Drew School have been measured by state-issued end of grade testing. Before the school was established, only 5 percent of 5th graders in the neighborhood were able to meet math standards. Today, they are outpacing their peers across the state. In 2012, 99% of students in grades 3–8 met or exceeded state standards in reading and language arts, and 98% in math. Characteristics of the Drew model, which sets the Drew Charter School apart, are their emphasis on professional development, the addition of a math intervention lab, a literacy intervention lab, and the funding for an extended school day.
RWSA will be a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School overseen by a unique School Leadership Council comprised of RWCI Staff and Board, CMS Leadership, and community members. RWCI will have part governance and is responsible for additional funding that will be raised annually in congruence with the RWCI Annual Fund.
Erin Barksdale is the Founding Principal of RWSA. Currently, Erin has been serving in an residency with Purpose Built Communities at the Drew Charter School for the past year. This opportunity allows Erin to learn the Drew model and prepare for the opening of RWSA, paying special attention to hiring staff.
For the 2017-2018 school year, RWSA opened as a pre-k through 5th grade school. Each year the school will add an additional grade level until the 8th grade making RWSA a pre-k through 8th grade school.