The SAM team was recently treated to a pre-opening tour of the Franklin School. The phrase “Equity from the Start,” the tagline from the Early Development Instrument used by the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), was echoing throughout the experience. Equity is a hot topic right now, but it’s not a conversational fad that will pass. It is part of intentional dialog across the community - organizations, businesses, boardrooms, and living rooms. Actions are being taken to weave equity practices throughout Spartanburg County.
No better exemplar is closer than The Franklin School, located in Spartanburg’s Northside community– slated to open in January. With just a couple of professional positions left to fill and a few more spaces remaining open for children, the entire operation of the school speaks to equity… from the start.
Up to 200 children from all walks of life, will find equal access to best-practices and resources, the point of equity building efforts.
At the school, every room is designed around a child’s developmental needs. All regulations for safety and security – met and then some. From the naptime cots for older children stored in a cupboard with just the right airflow, to the pint-sized sofas, reading nooks, and toys – all are studies in the science of blending “kid friendly” with “developmentally appropriate” and safe. The classroom furniture is all new – in all rooms. Cubbies for car seats, toddler sized bathrooms, and easy access to outdoor play areas have been strategically located. Toys and classroom supplies are being unpacked.
Placement of furniture, toys, and care stations all support “best practice” design and learning principles. The school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) foundation is also evident – from the spin-able circles made from tree trunks (from trees that had to be removed as part of the building process) that can be found on school walls at toddler height, to water and light tables in the common areas and outdoor musical instruments in the playgrounds. These details encourage “learning through discovery,” the foundation of the Franklin School curriculum.
For Shawna Bynum, the school’s founding director, there’s no small amount of “working it out” when it comes to details and she’s doing it with a winning combination of professional knowledge and experience, energy, and warmth. Bynum is tasked with uniting all in the commitment to the highest standards and deployment of best practices that make no distinction by classroom age group or family income.
From the early thought leaders and project fundraisers to the school’s Development Board members, many entities have been deeply committed to the effort, leaving their mark on the design and organization of the school. Quality Counts, the quality initiative of Spartanburg County First Steps, supported by the Mary Black Foundation, has guided classroom organization. School District 7 has helped with furniture procurement, grounds planning and numerous other details. The Northside Development Group spearheading the Franklin School initiative, continues its efforts to build the community surrounding the school. Numerous other organizations from large companies to small nonprofits and churches have supported the effort with funding, manpower, and expertise from the concept stage and now as the doors are about to open.
USC Upstate Child Development and Family Studies has guided multiple steps along the way. Offices as well as conference areas have 2-way mirrors for direct observation of children for research and teaching purposes, and for parents. Developmentally appropriate early care and education is visible in real time. Cameras installed in every room provide an additional observational resource and added security. A university classroom was built into the building plan as a place where students will take the upper level courses needed to earn the Child Development and Family Studies degree to become reflective practitioners of best practices.
The SAM team was inspired by the attention to detail and cross-agency cooperation at work to provide the best for a brand-new community of learners. The uniting of energy and resources fueled by decades of developmental brain science have ensured that when the doors to the Franklin School open in January it will be Spartanburg’s best example of dedication to embed equity into the fabric of Spartanburg County – from the start.