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Charter middle school campus opens

August 2, 2017 GMT

FORT MOHAVE — Desert Star Academy Middle School hosted a grand opening event Tuesday to celebrate completion of its 10,000-square-foot campus along the 5700 block of Highway 95 in Fort Mohave.

The school will educate 120 students in grades 6-8 and stands near its elementary and pre-school facilities.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of 21st-century learners,” said Margie Montgomery, school director-principal.

Staff refer to the young people attending the school as “scholars.” Focus is on science, technology, engineering, math and arts, and curricula is created following a philosophy better known outside academia by its acronym, STEAM. It’s broader than STEM, which doesn’t put as strong an emphasis on arts.

“A comprehensive approach is taken so the scholar is able to find the answer and not just have it given to them to memorize,” Montgomery said.

She said the searches and a process of learning through critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation helps transform these youths into “academic detectives.” Fostering interest in learning and seeking among today’s scholars is a way to help them grow up to become adults who continue down that path throughout their lives.

A computer room for pupils contains about two dozen work stations and several 3-D printers. In another room, a green board allows a place for students to produce podcasts. Sometimes teachers might require assignments be completed in that format. E-mailing completed work to teachers is commonplace in a digital classroom. There is a modern science laboratory that’s almost fully outfitted as well. A few more items are on the way.

Instruction areas provide pupils with alternative seating, such as a combination of round tables with chairs and sofas instead of chairs with attached writing areas.

Providing choices helps provide comfort and confidence to succeed academically; the children and parents have been praising the overall atmosphere, Montgomery said.

Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the building, she complimented parents of students attending the charter school and thanked community members and business people for their support. This is because all of them play significant roles in making the schools successful and one big reason why “we have a gorgeous school,” she remarked.

Another speaker at this event was former State Sen. Kelli Ward, a Republican who represented legislative District 5. She served on the education committee while in the legislature and was supportive of charter schools, including Desert Star, Montgomery said. Ward intends to run against U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, in the 2018 Republican primary.

Ward told the crowd that “Education is key. ...School choice and competition are what make education great.”

A total of 412 youths attend the three schools. All three campuses have a stated mission of “inspiring children to become scholars, citizens and leaders.”