New, small school focuses efforts on learning basics electronically|[06/25/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2007

Four years ago, Mason Guthrie was looking to the future.

Hoping to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the now 13-year-old asked his parents what he needed to do academically to get on track.

After some investigation, his parents, John and Renee Kendrick, discovered that while most schools had the courses to help students meet general requirements for entry into any college in the United States, not every school did. The Kendricks found several other families who shared their dilemma.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

So with just three students, and a step of faith, they decided to start a school.

&#8220We started in a little building on Cherry Street,” with three students, said John Kendrick.

Today, about 50 students in grades 3-12 attend the school, located on North Frontage Road. The school does not receive any state or federal money. Operating costs are paid for in part by a $350 per month tuition. Kendrick said he personally covers other expenses.

Besides the size, the school has some other unique attributes.

&#8220We’re completely computerized – everybody gets a computer,” he said. Many of the students’ lessons are presented on the computer instead of in a handout or on the blackboard.

The focus on computerized learning allows each student to work at his own pace, explained Kendrick’s wife, Renee. &#8220I think they get a lot of one-on-one attention” and help, she said. &#8220You have more time to devote to the area they need help in.”

Kim Barnes, a self-described teacher, class mother, chauffeur and school advisory board member, agrees that technology is essential.

&#8220Today, children are exposed to and use technology at an early age, and it makes sense to use something they’re accustomed to as a learning tool,” said Barnes. &#8220That’s what they’ve grown up in.”

If a student gets stumped, said Barnes, he or she can move on and come back to a lesson later without having to wait until the next day for reading or math time.

&#8220A lot of the stuff we do here helps the above-average students as well as those students that have fallen behind,” said Renee Kendrick.

Another benefit of being small, said Barnes, is that time spent on administrative tasks such as lining up or taking attendance is eliminated. There is at least one teacher for every 15 students at the school.

Last week, about 10 students were participating in the school’s first summer school program. Kendrick said that no one failed – everyone is there by choice.

Some of the students at Vicksburg Community School are new, like 15-year-old Jessica Lynch, a 10th-grader who started at the school in January.

&#8220I love it,” said Jessica. &#8220My grades are a lot better.”

And along with four others, Shelby Etheridge, 16, expects to graduate in the spring.

&#8220I get to graduate early,” she said. &#8220Her disposition would make an excellent lawyer,” said Kendrick. Both laughed.

&#8220I like to argue,” said Shelby.

Registration for the 2007-08 school year is ongoing and space is limited, said John Kendrick. Right now, the school’s major focus is to acquire more space. He hopes to expand into the rest of the building at North Frontage Road.

&#8220We’re basically in the process of trying to accommodate,” as many students as we can,” he said.