Last updated: May 28. 2014 5:17PM - 1522 Views
By Jessica Johnson jessicajohnson@civitasmedia.com

Walls are going up at Millennium Charter Academy's upper grades expansion. The expansion is set for completion in October of this year.
Walls are going up at Millennium Charter Academy's upper grades expansion. The expansion is set for completion in October of this year.
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Millennium Charter Academy’s Upper School Expansion, an addition to the school which will house the ninth and tenth grades for the next two years, took a step toward completion today as a large crane lifted walls into place — a move that generated excitement in students and teachers, many of whom were on hand to watch the process prior to school releasing for the day.

The new building will contain six classrooms, a fitness room, and a commons area which can be used for student meetings, group collaborations, and eating.

Brittany Branch, a seventh and eighth grade science teacher, took her class of science students outside, so students could observe and take notes about the construction process. “They are learning the physics of construction, so we are applying their prior knowledge and talking about why the construction workers have to use this in their job,” Branch remarked.

Lu Ann Browne, the director of development and information technology for Millennium Charter Academy, said construction is expected to be completed in October. Since the eighth grade class this year will be the first to attend the upper school, for ninth grade, temporary classrooms will be created out of the existing lunchroom and a science lab. Browne said students will eat lunch in their classrooms at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, until the lunchroom can be re-opened after construction is completed in October.

“We are incredibly excited about the walls going up. The children are excited, and our current eighth graders are beyond excited,” Browne remarked on Wednesday afternoon, as the crane was being assembled at the construction site next to the charter school. “The upper school is a continuation of our classical model,” she added, referring to the three-part model that serves as Millennium’s structure for education.

The first stage in the model is the grammar stage, for students from kindergarten through fourth grade. During this stage of development, Browne said “children are like sponges,” absorbing everything, and the school gives them “good, rich, meaningful information” through different subject areas that overlap and interrelate. An example is how a history lesson may be paired with an art project.

The second stage, beginning in grades 5 and 6 through middle school, is the dialectic/logic stage, rolled out when students are developing more ability to reason, to allow students to expand their thinking processes and use a more logic-based approach in their studies. The third stage will be rolled out starting with the new ninth grade class, the rhetoric stage, where students will learn how to articulate and apply more reasoning, Browne shared.

Browne said that students in Millennium’s middle grades choose from 52 “rich” electives — specialty classes focused on subjects like sports, art, STEM, yearbook, creative writing, and much more. High school students, known as the upper school at Millennium, will choose from three elective clusters — STEM, Entrepreneurial, and Humanities, but will all follow the state’s required high school curriculum, with one difference: all classes will be taught at Honors level, with AP classes offered as an alternative to Honors.

A new addition for the upper grades will be an Arts After Hours program, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. each day, giving students a chance to participate in subjects like art, drama, music and more, Browne added. Athletics will still be offered, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field, and cheerleading. Millennium is a member of the Central Carolina Conference.

Upon completion, school officials estimate the school will hold about one thousand students in grades K-12, at an estimated cost of $1.4 million for the entire expansion, including outfitting and furnishing new classrooms. Funding will come from private donations and loans.

A college counselor will be added to the staff for the next school year as well. Browne said there are openings in multiple grade levels, for any students who want to join Millennium Charter academy. “Just come in and fill out an application. There is no tuition here, and we offer tours for those who are interested.”

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.

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