PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WPDE) - Inside Waccamaw Middle School in Pawleys Island, an empty wing now houses Coastal Montessori Charter School, a school focused on the independence and freedom within limits for its students.
The first day of school is Wednesday and teachers spent the day organizing their classrooms. Not only is the school new, it's also the first charter school in Georgetown County and the second public Montessori school in the state.
"I moved across the country. I moved 2600 miles. I had a great job a great school and I moved because I believe this school really was on the forefront of education, a very innovative approach and charters are all about innovation," says Director Lonnie Yancsurak.
Coastal Montessori will teach kids in first to sixth grade, but the school is divided into lower and upper elementary.
Unlike traditional schools, three grade levels are in the same room. The teacher introduces a lesson then students work at their own pace. What you won't see are kids working on the same assignment at the same time.
"Having multiple ages in the classroom enables the children to learn from each other. It also helps them to develop more independence so they're not relying on the teacher all the time," explains Heather Teems, a teacher.
"Every child get exactly what they need. The whole kind of premise behind Montessori is follow the child so we let the child help us to guide them through the education process," adds Yancsurak.
A bead cabinet is just one of the many tools found in Montessori schools. It helps students learn abstract mathematical concepts.
Montessori schools are typically private and can cost thousands of dollars a year, but since Coastal Montessori is public, it's open to everyone.
"It doesn't matter how much you have or don't have, you have the same opportunity to go to this school as anyone else would so that to me is what charter is really all about. Give people an opportunity to go to a school they may otherwise couldn't go to," says Yancsurak.
About 150 students are enrolled at the school and there's a waiting list in case a spot opens up.
The school will hold an open house and dedication Friday August 25 at 6 p.m. and will welcome the State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.