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Manteca campus for charter school
Great Valley Academy would open with 350 students
Pastor Mike Dillman, left, of The Place of Refuge with Great Valley Academy chief administrator Eldon Rosenow.
Great Valley Academy charter school is pursuing a campus in Manteca that initially will accommodate 350 students.

The charter school - which already has a Modesto campus with 640 students including many from Manteca - is preparing to submit plans under the charter school law established in 1992 to seek the Manteca Unified School District board’s permission to locate in Manteca. It will operate as a kindergarten through eighth grade school.

They are planning on taking over the Manteca Christian School on Button Avenue that currently has 62 students. Great Valley Academy has over 200 students on a waiting list including a number from Manteca.

Manteca Christian Schools has been hit hard by the weak economy. The Christian school has been part of Manteca for 27 years. At one time they had close to 250 students.

“We’ve had many parents who have lost one job or both jobs in the household or have had their pay reduced,” noted Dillman.

They had looked to partner with other churches to operate the school but decided it wasn’t economically feasible. The search for a possible charter school to take it over led them to Great Valley Academy (GVA). The Manteca Christian Preschool will continue to operate as it has under the wings of The Place of Refugee.

Dillman said both parents as well as the church congregation voted to embrace the merger.

Great Valley Academy chief administrator Eldon Rosenow said the charter school had been looking to expand with a second site that was more accessible. They were hoping to locate something in Salida since they have a number of students from Lodi, Stockton, Manteca, and Tracy.

He noted the Manteca Christian School location “was a perfect fit” not only due to its highly accessible site but the fact they have a track and ample room for expansion

Dillman said the Manteca Christian students will be grandfathered in if they so choose to do so to attend the Manteca campus. Great Valley Academy is targeting to launch with the start of the 2011-12 school year.

Unlike a private school, there is no tuition for a charter school as it is covered by tax dollars and employs certificated teachers. There is, however, the cost of uniforms and a modest school supply fee that runs roughly $200 a year.

Rosenow is a Modesto optometrist who was impressed with a private school in Michigan where neuro optometry - a specialty that emphasizes enhancing eye to brain coordination to improve comprehension and learning - has made successful changes in students for 10 years.

Rosenow himself had his life changed by neuro optometry. Schooled in Modesto, he had wanted to go to a trade school because of trouble he had learning. His father, who had a college degree, insisted he go to college. He went to Modesto Junior College but soon faltered.

His father then enrolled him in a small Christian college - Pacific University - in Forest Grove, Oregon.

There all students were screened for visual acutely, tracking, peripheral vision, speed in which their eye and brain interpreted things, and other vision landmarks. Not only did it greatly enhance Rosenow’s ability to learn but he became fascinated with the field and ultimately entered the School of Optometry. Basic principles of how the eye coordinated with the brain in learning are used at Great Valley Academy along with other teaching methods.

What Great Valley
Academy offers
Among GVA’s offerings:

• Spanish is taught in kindergarten on through experience and immersion. Rosenow pointed to studies that have shown the earlier the age a person learns a foreign language the easier they can learn other languages. Most of America’s key competitors in the world economy require foreign langue in their schools from the first year as well.

• Students stay with the same teacher for at least two years.

• Physical education has a heavy emphasis. It is taught by a trained teacher.

• Homework is not compulsory. The GVA philosophy is that parents send their children to school to learn and that is where they will be taught. The GVA website noted that “compulsory homework has been proven ineffective and even detrimental to quality education.” GVA expects their students to read at home, but teaching occurs at school. Rosenow added that leaves more time for other pursuits such as karate, sports, dance, and such that he noted are important to build character.

• Class sizes are between 21 and 27 students.

• There are 180 school days as opposed to 175 for most California public schools. The school days are also longer.

• Music including orchestra and choir are integrated into the school day. Rosenow noted that music - just like physical education - has proven to have a positive impact on improved learning.

• Teachers eat lunch with students family-style. Students are also encouraged to eat healthy snacks during the day to maintain energy levels needed for quality work.

• Uniforms are required for both students and teachers.

• Academic excellence is stressed. GVA works with each student to master a particular subject. If they are more motivated and realize they don’t have to spend “meaningless time on a topic and can demonstrate mastery” they are moved on to something more challenging.

• GVA students earn “salaries”, have jobs to do, pay bills, and develop their own businesses.

The GVA also offers child care services on site before and after school.

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