Cornerstone Preparatory Academy began its 11th school year Monday at Summit Baptist Church. The school has always taught class in local churches, but it recently purchased a 15-acre tract it plans to use as its first campus, according to Jeanine Marlow, the school’s director of communications and marketing.
To raise money for the new, 39,000-square foot facility it hopes to build on the property, she said, the school began a special competition.
“We want to break ground in January, so we’re starting our very first capital campaign,” Marlow said. “And to get our students and our families excited about that, we are doing what we’re calling the ‘Cornerstone Coin Challenge.’ And we’re pitting our elementary students against our secondary students to see who can raise the most money.”
The school has about 420 students enrolled from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students are divided into elementary, kindergarten through sixth grade, and secondary, seventh through 12th.
As part of the launch of the Cornerstone Coin Challenge, the school’s two principals — Pat Burton and Kyle Hamilton — suited up in sumo wrestler outfits at the first elementary school chapel event Thursday to get students and teachers excited and engaged.
Hamilton, the principal of the secondary students, said Burton won the competition, but the school plans on having a rematch today when the secondary students attend their first chapel event of the year.
Marlow said the challenge will end Aug. 25, at which time the coins will be counted and the principal of the losing side will get a pie to the face.
Because the school wants to break ground at the beginning of 2015, Marlow says the school needs to raise $2 million by the end of the year for the new school, which will contain 12 regular classrooms, six specialty classrooms — to be used for art, science and technology — and a media center.
The new facility will also have a gymnasium and a football field. Marlow said the school is looking forward to having “home field advantage” for the first time.
“We’re excited because we’ve never had our own campus before. We’ve been blessed to always have churches that have been willing to share their campuses with us, but we know it’s really going to help us as far as scheduling purposes, especially when it comes to athletics,” she said.
A K-12 school with a college schedule, Cornerstone uses a non-traditional scheduling system called the university model.
“We operate much like a university. Our secondary students are on campus Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And our elementary students are on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the other days, they’re at home getting their work done,” she said.
The schedule allows students to spend more time with their family, Marlow said, in addition to keeping tuition low for parents. The school charges $140 per credit hour, and most courses are three credit hours, she added.
There have been five graduating classes at Cornerstone, and the students coming from the school tend to do well at the college level, Marlow said.
“Our graduates do extremely well in college because they’ve already gotten used to that college schedule and they understand what it means to be an independent learner,” she said.
Arlene Francis, a business owner from Acworth, has two students at Cornerstone: Barry is in ninth grade and Tyler is in seventh. She said her sons love the way Cornerstone schedules their classes.
“They still get to do their sports. They still get to, on the home days, do more research or whatever they have to do. They like the flexibility,” she said.
Francis said the school’s teachers set it apart.
“They actually care. I mean, unlike some schools where teachers don’t have enough time to devote to students, here, the ratio of teachers to students is much smaller, so they have more individual time. Plus, you get a lot more contact with teachers. If there’s something missing, you don’t wait a week to find out. They email you,” she said.
Marlow said the school has about 65 teachers; most teach either secondary or elementary students, but some teach both. The student to teacher ratio for secondary students is about 18 to one, Marlow added, and the ratio for elementary students is about 16 to one.