While former staff and community members voice concerns about Riverwalk Academy, Rock Hill parent Kat Litten said she is not sending her child to the school next year.
Litten said her decision to pull her son from the K-12 public charter school off Mount Gallant Road comes amid changes in both the school’s administration and academic approaches. Her son went to the school for kindergarten and first grade.
Litten said Riverwalk’s project-based learning approach was one of the reasons she sent her son there. However, Litten said she has seen her son do fewer projects in first grade than when he was in kindergarten.
“They really cut down the number of projects that they did,” Litten said. “Project-based learning is a big selling point.”
Project-based learning is a method that challenges students to work for an extended period to investigate and respond to a challenge, problem or complex question, according to the Buck Institute for Education, an organization that creates PBL programs and offers professional development.
Riverwalk Academy Principal Cora Stepp said the school is bringing on a project-based learning expert to provide training throughout the school year, and a PBL coach. The coach will ensure PBL is implemented correctly in the school.
“Our charter is built on the premise of PBL,” Stepp said. “The school has not had consistent PBL training, but that is changing. We are doing the exact opposite of what the rumors are stating. We are embracing PBL to a deeper level.”
We are doing the exact opposite of what the rumors are stating.
Riverwalk Academy Principal Cora Stepp
Litten is one of many parents sharing concerns about Riverwalk.
Last week, a group of parents, former teachers and staff members and community members gathered outside Riverwalk Academy to air grievances against the school’s adminstration and recent decisions.
The group had planned to address Riverwalk’s board members during their special called meeting, but the meeting was cancelled. Stepp said the meeting could not take place because there weren’t enough board members present.
Teachers were told on June 9 via e-mail and letters that they would not have a job next year. The Herald’s story on this has garnered hundreds of comments on social media from parents and community members critizing how the school handled the situation, the changes in administration and other concerns.
Parent Danielle Scarpa wrote on The Herald’s Facebook page: “Many of us are shocked and heartbroken by this. These are amazing women that did not deserve this.”
Many of us are shocked and heartbroken by this. These are amazing women that did not deserve this.
Danielle Scarpa, parent
Scarpa has a rising first-grader and a rising third-grader at Riverwalk.
Litten said she is also concerned about the firings, which include her son’s kindergarten teacher Summer Partee. Partee was one of the teachers who spoke publicly last week.
“She was a wonderful teacher,” Litten said of Partee. “There were never any complaints about her as a teacher.”
Stepp said the school cannot publicly comment on personnel matters, but “each spring, Riverwalk Academy assesses the school’s personnel needs for the upcoming school year and makes employment decisions accordingly.”
Riverwalk parent Mandy Bowers-Krashner said Riverwalk has potential and that both of her sons had a good year. She said negativity “stifles our growth and will not allow us to move forward.”
“What I will say is that my children had their best year yet this past school year both academically and emotionally,” she said. “We love Riverwalk and know the school will do amazing things.”
We love Riverwalk and know the school will do amazing things.
Mandy Bowers-Krashner, parent
The public can address the Riverwalk Academy school board during the July 17 regular board meeting. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. at the school, 5750 Mt Gallant Rd. in Rock Hill.