WAXHAW – Thales Academy showed off its new school to members of the Union County Chamber of Commerce on May 23, and it probably won’t be its last ribbon cutting ceremony in the Charlotte-metro region.
The private school opened in September serving kindergarten through fourth grade. It will become K-5 school later this year. The current location on Newtown Road has enough space to expand to K-8 in the coming years. A future junior high and high school are also on the drawing board.
Waxhaw location is Thales’ eighth location, with the other seven sites in the Raleigh area, including a junior high and a high school. Over 3,000 students attend school on the eight campuses. Thales is also looking to possibly add locations in Charlotte as well as in Nashville, Tenn., Richmond, Va., and Houston, Texas.
“This is just a first step,” said Tim Hall, director of operations and academics. “We thought the Charlotte area would be a good place to land. Coming to Waxhaw was really about land, finding available land that was affordable.”
Thales Academy was founded in 2007 by Bob Luddy, president and founder of CaptiveAire System, the nation’s leading manufacturer of commercial kitchen ventilation equipment.
“The first school was in the back of Mr. Luddy’s corporate office,” Hall said. “We have added four campuses in the past four years with an additional 1,500-plus students. Next year, we will probably be at 3,500 on all of our campuses.’’
In K-5, Thales Academy uses a research-based teaching method known as Direct Instruction, which employs rapid pacing, grouping by ability level and teaching to mastery so teachers can lead classes efficiently and students can learn more effectively.
“It is teacher-directed,” Hall said. “It includes oral responses, and it builds foundational knowledge for students in reading and math, which is important for the rest of their academic careers. It is built toward mastery. If a class isn’t at or above 85% mastery, then the teacher reteaches the lesson. So, no child is left behind, so to speak. When a student leaves here, they will be at the fifth-grade level in reading and math, and maybe higher.’’
All of the school’s campuses use the same design elements. The Waxhaw location sits on four acres and is 33,000 square feet in size. The school has a state-of-the-art technology lab and a music room, as well as a space for physical education classes and other school events.
“You will recognize us wherever you go,” Hall said of the design of all the schools.
Waxhaw administrator Kelsey Zoda said the school has 60 students but it has the capacity for 450 students. Currently, only the first floor of the two-story school is being used but that will change as the school grows to K-8.
“We brought a new model to a new city, and we are pleased with our numbers for the first year,” Zoda said. “We currently have six teachers and two front office staff. We have a very strong curriculum, and there is a very strong sense of community here.”
Zoda said the success at Thales Academy starts with the teachers.
“We are looking for people that are willing to learn something new,” said Zoda, who has experience teaching in private and public schools. “We want teachers who have a lot of energy. We want teachers that love kids and who want to see them reach their highest potential.’’
Tuition at the Waxhaw location costs $5,000 a year, and scholarships are available. The school operates on a year-round calendar.
“We believe our tuition is very competitive with private schools here,” Zoda said. “Our whole mission is high-quality education at an affordable cost.’’