Spartanburg City Manager Chris Story said Wednesday night there’s no other child development center that’s quite like the Franklin School.

Story said the partnerships that led to its creation, and the blend of students it will serve, make the northside community’s new school unique.

“It’s the first of its kind,” Story told members of the Spartanburg City Council Wednesday. “We’re not aware of anything else like this that incorporates the multiple public programs, and the mix of income with the top-notch academic environment, in terms of the presence of USC Upstate. We’re not aware of anybody else doing anything like this.”

Story’s kudos came during a tour for council members just weeks before the new school is set to open its doors for its first students in January.

A partnership between the Northside Development Group, the Mary Black Foundation, and other groups, the new early learning school is aimed at serving children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, year-round, according to Franklin School Director Shawna Bynum.

Bynum said everything within the school – from its playgrounds and classrooms to simple common spaces and hallways – have been designed to promote curiosity and learning to help students make the most of their early years, a crucial period in brain development.

She said teachers have either bachelor’s or associate’s degrees in early childhood education, and said the latter group will have career development pathways to help them reach the bachelor’s level in the future. Bynum promised low student-to-teacher ratios, and said the school is set to serve roughly 130 students when it opens next month, with the capacity to serve 180.

The roughly $10 million center offers full-year, full-day programming from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will charge tuition. That will be based on a sliding scale, though private pay students will be charged $170 per week, Bynum told council members, comparable to similar nearby centers.

Bynum showed council members around the school, including observation rooms that will be utilized by both USC Upstate students as part of training and internships through the university’s Child Development and Family Studies Program – and parents checking up on their child’s progress.

The glass between those rooms isn’t quite one-way, but students won’t be able to recognize if mom or dad is checking up on them during the school day, Bynum said.

“There’s a lot of parent engagement here and we encourage that,” Bynum said, noting that she doesn’t tell parents they’re not allowed to come and observe the child during the day. “You can come whenever you want.”

Those ideas are rooted in the knowledge that a child’s parents are their first, and most important, teachers, according to Bynum.

“So it has to be a partnership, we have to come together so that the things that they’re doing at home, are they doing those things here,” Bynum said.

Spartanburg School District Seven Superintendent Russell Booker said Wednesday the Franklin School marks another victory that the city’s northside should be proud of.

“All the small wins, like this, make a difference for the northside,” Booker said. “This project is really looking at it holistically, but when we have small wins like the Franklin School or the groundbreaking at the TK Gregg Center, I think it re-energizes that entire community. For our 4-K kids who are leaving Cleveland after Christmas and heading over there, they’re going to be walking into a top-notch facility but more than that, the programming that they’re going to be offering is what I’m really excited about.”

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