A new virtual homeschool that will be based in Graham and serve students in 5th through 8th grade students is scheduled to begin its inaugural school year in two weeks.
Regina Williams-Johnson, who lives along Fancy Loop Road in Graham, co-founded the Academy of Pivotal Learning in June of this year with Tiffany Samms of Atlanta, Georgia.
Williams-Johnson will serve as the CEO and school principal, in addition to teaching 8th grade history and reading.
Samms will serve as the school president and teach Swahili, in addition to serving in several other leadership roles, Williams-Johnson said this week in an interview with The Alamance News.
The Academy of Pivotal Learning differs from other online schools and homeschools because classes will be taught in real-time, providing students with opportunities to socialize and interact with their teachers. “This will be live, not pre-recorded, not streamed,” Williams-Johnson emphasized in an interview with The Alamance News. “I wanted to provide kids nationwide [with] the opportunity of a good strong program that has core classes, plus electives and enrichment. Most virtual programs are kids sitting in front of the computer, working at their own pace.”
The forthcoming online homeschool will also offer numerous opportunities to help students overcome the “learning loss” created by the statewide school shutdown following the emergence of Covid-19 in North Carolina in the spring of 2020, Williams-Johnson told the newspaper Tuesday. A daily study hall session is “built into the school day” so students can get help in areas where they’re struggling. After-school tutoring and other targeted one-on-one assistance will be available for students who need more help, she said.
The virtual homeschool’s co-founder and principal said she felt it was important to offer the middle school grades during the first year, because studies have shown those years are critical to the future academic, social, and personal development of students. “Studies have shown those are pivotal years for [students]” Williams-Johnson said, citing numerous studies showing that students who lack the academic and social foundation by the time they reach adolescence find it nearly impossible to catch up, often putting them in the school-to-prison pipeline. The Academy of Pivotal Learning is envisioned as a “safe haven where kids can focus on their academics,” Williams-Johnson explained.
“I want the parents to not have to worry about their kids, to have a healthy, safe choice. ms-Johnson elaborated. “One of the few positives [of Covid-19] is it made the world smaller, because you get to come together on Zoom; you talk to people in different countries and to people in different states.”
– Regina Williams-Johnson, of Graham, co-founder of Academy of Pivotal Learning
The co-founders began developing their plans to launch an online homeschool in June of this year, Williams-Johnson said, acknowledging that the onset of the coronavirus was “100 percent a catalyst” for starting a virtual homeschool.
“I want the parents to not have to worry about their kids, to have a healthy, safe choice,” Williams-Johnson elaborated. “One of the few positives [of Covid-19] is it made the world smaller, because you get to come together on Zoom; you talk to people in different countries and to people in different states.”
With more than 30 years’ experience in education and human resources management, Williams-Johnson had helped to establish and operate charter schools, including Excelsior Classical Academy, a public charter school that opened in 2015 in Durham, where she served as operations manager. Williams-Johnson later oversaw the Students Obtaining Achievements in Reading (SOAR) program for the Chatham Education Foundation in Pittsboro and taught English/English as a Second Language for Chinese senior citizens through the Orange County Literacy Program prior to moving to Graham in 2016.
Williams-Johnson said she and her husband, who owns a contracting business, moved to Graham because they wanted to live in a place where her mother would be able to drive easily. “It’s simple and quiet; it’s away from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities,” she said, adding that while her mother is now deceased, “Graham is just perfect.”
Classes will be taught live, in real-time for students in two time zones, Eastern Standard Time and Mountain time, to enable as many students as possible to enroll, as well as to provide flexibility for working parents, Williams-Johnson explained.
“I am the daughter of a retired librarian; I’ve been reading since I was three. We will be sending hard-copy books, an art kit – that way we know all kids have the same supplies. We want them to have the real books so they can turn the page.”
– Regina Williams-Johnson, co-founder of Academy of Pivotal Learning
Though classes will be taught online, students will still have books and other hands-on learning materials. “I am the daughter of a retired librarian; I’ve been reading since I was three,” Williams-Johnson explained. “We will be sending them hard-copy books, an art kit – that way we know all kids have the same supplies. We want them to have the real books so they can turn the page. We are doing a lot of hands-on activities, interactive projects and assignments, and we are also going to do lunch online together.”
Williams-Johnson said she saw the need to create an educational program that would “enable kids to be socialized,” while keeping them healthy and safe, and also to hire a diverse teaching staff “so kids can see themselves in their teachers.”
The curriculum for core subjects such as math, history, science, and reading/English will be based on the N.C. Standard Course of Study, as well as New Jersey education standards, which Williams-Johnson said are ranked top in the nation for kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum.
Students will be able to choose from electives such as: forensics; journalism; music production; foreign languages that include Arabic, Swahili, Japanese, Spanish, and American Sign Language).
National standardized tests will be administered at the beginning and end of the year, she said. P.E. will be taught twice a week, with students have a choice of Bollywood dancing (Indian dance set to movie soundtracks); Zumba; modern dance; and traditional P.E./fitness, the principal explained.
Art, music, book club, and other enrichment activities are mandatory components of the curriculum to ensure “that students receive a well-rounded 21st-century education,” Williams-Johnson said. It’s important that students learn to understand themselves, to be conscious of their actions, and to create positive connections, she said.
“I want [students] to know the world is bigger than them and we want them to be kind. It’s just not a kind world right now,” Williams-Johnson elaborated in the interview. “I want the babies to have the best. Kids don’t care what you know until they know you care.”
Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year will be capped at 80 students, with plans to add additional grades for subsequent school years. Enrollment for the upcoming school year is at approximately 40 percent of the school’s current operating capacity, with students in Winston-Salem, Cary, and southeastern U.S. enrolled, Williams-Johnson estimated.
Full-time enrollment is available for students in the county, state, and throughout the U.S. Part-time enrollment is also available for homeschool students in North Carolina who are currently enrolled in another homeschool and seek additional academic resources.
Tuition is $5,590 per year. Payment plans are available, and tuition assistance may be available through “Opportunity Scholarships” from the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority. For more information, visit: www.aplhomeschool.org or call (919)764-0058.