Seacoast Charter School moved into a new facility in Dover, NH in the fall of 2015, renting the old Measured Progress campus on Watson Road. After a year of great change and transition, the school purchased that building in the fall of 2016. Given the turmoil of moving so far from its previous home in Kingston, and losing a headmaster, teachers, and some families in the process, this has been a huge accomplishment. It is also the first charter school in New Hampshire to do so.
Through the past year and a half, there have been many changes and growing pains. Due to the turmoil, there was some staff turnover last year, however what's notable is the longevity of many of the teachers. The facility will continue to need physical work in order to adapt it to the school's needs. There is no fancy playground yet, no drama program, no gym. Picking up your child can take a good 30 minutes as the cars snake around the driveway. But there is a strong music program, mixed grade classrooms that don't exceed about 20 students, and everyone knows each other's names.
My son has been at SCS since January 2016. The transition was difficult at first owing to the mix of students last year and personality differences with his teacher. But a request for a different teacher was granted and some of the kids moved on to the next grade level (classrooms are grade 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8). So this year has been much better and we're both pretty happy with our choice to move from Dover Middle School.
DMS is a large school with class sizes in the 30s and it's easy for students to fall through the cracks if they are neither self-starters nor very poorly performing, but fall in the lower end of the middle. But DMS does have more extra-curricular programs and activities that you'd expect from a larger school. So it is a bit of a trade off. We just supplement with private or city-run activities.
So for now, in order to paint a realistic picture to those thinking about choosing SCS, I will rate it as "good" compared to the bad+/average- I would rate DMS (at least as far as my own child was concerned).
As SCS continues to grow and mature in its new home with its new head of school and new development director and new art teacher, etc., I don't doubt I will be able to add another star very soon.
Teachers at SCS are a special breed. Evidence of this beyond the classroom is their dedication to the process of moving out of the inadequate facilities the school is in now, their participation in fundraising activities and the nights and weekends they've been putting in for what they openly say is their community.
SCS is a fantastic school that's flourished despite being stuck in a poor facility with a landlord and town that doesn't care about them and is openly hostile towards them. The way the SCS parents and teachers have rallied for the move to better facilities shows what a special community that has developed. This isn't something we've ever seen at our town school where no one cares about each other and fights each other, school board, parents and students, constantly. It's exciting the school is finally going to get the kind of facility it deserves. SCS is going to be better than ever. We're really looking forward to it and especially having the stress around the facility finally gone.
By integrating art within the classroom, the teachers are very effective in teaching. While they still need to teach to NH state testing levels (the standardized exams), they have a bit more leeway to experiment with various teaching methods. Like most jobs, they have the opportunity to evaluate whether a method was effective or not and keep in the repertoire or not...The teachers are dedicated and work incredibly hard.
The school doesn't have the typical bullying. I appreciated that the 7th graders are reading buddies to the 1st graders, developing a big-little sibling relationship. The carpooling also affords relationship building, as well as the afterschool enrichment classes. Students call the teachers and head of school by their first names, having an expectation of respect - closely tied to honest, integrity and fairness.
My daughter just finished her first year at Seacoast Charter School (SCS) and I am pleased that the school exceeded my expectations.
A few items that stick out for me:
1. They hold a whole school meeting every Friday where 2-3 classes present in front of the whole school. To me it is fantastic that she is already learning to speak in front of 250 other students, plus teachers and parents, holding a microphone at such an early age.
2. I love that art is integrated in all of the subjects, helping them concretize the learnings. For instance when learning about light and shadows, they did a piece of art where the moon is reflecting off a body of water and another piece where a grove of birch trees is casting shadows on the ground.
Like any school, it is what one puts into it. She started reading this year and is already reading one full school year ahead (per Scholastic book's reading level charts).
On our tour of the school prior to going, I remember a parent saying that her son was shy and a wallflower prior to going and that at SCS he found his voice. She said he still feels shy but now speaks up in spite of that.
I look forward too to 3rd grade and above when all of the students are required to take a musical string instrument. My daughter in the past was resisting piano lessons (even though she was good), but think that once all of her friends are taking class with her, she will be excited.
While the school is having some bumps on finding a new location, it's worth the bumps.