By Kayla Berenson
A new school year typically means new backpacks, new pencils, new teachers and new friends. At Union Day School in Weddington, the new school year brought two major changes: a new head of lower school and a new 35,000-square-foot space.
Head of Lower School Kyle Pierce has an extensive background with charter schools, working in administrative roles at Lake Norman Charter High School and both the middle and high schools at Lincoln Charter School. This is his first role in an elementary school setting.
“Change is hard for some,” Pierce said. “I’ve had to earn the trust of our students, staff and families. I think I’ve been asking the right questions, which has helped with that trust. I’m always asking questions.”
Pierce said the transition to his role has been “interesting,” but he loves the kids. He has spent the first two months in his new role making a conscious effort to learn as much as he can about the school and its community.
His main goal for students is growth both in and outside the classroom.
“We’ve done a really good job of assessing where our students are beyond their test scores,” Pierce said. “Those are important, but we’re also focusing on cultural aspects, empathy and acceptance.”
Pierce also said the staff hopes to motivate their students to get excited about learning and provide a program that produces well-rounded, enriched students.
The school, which is built around a library and features a makerspace, an outdoor classroom and other new features, is helpful in achieving these goals, according to Pierce.
“In this new space, we have the opportunity to expand the learning space outside of the four walls of the classroom,” he said. “The open design brings in a collaborative space.”
There are some parts of the school that are still being worked on and fine-tuned, but Pierce sees the benefits already.
He is not the only one who has been impressed by the changes made at Union Day. The school recently had its “back to school” night for families, who noticed the advantages.
“People were grinning from ear to ear,” Pierce said. “I think the community sees the benefit of having this space. And even at school, I see students walking around grinning from ear to ear and saying, ‘Wow, this place is so cool.’ It’s really amazing.”
The space also provides opportunities for the school itself to grow. Pierce said the school plans to add a grade every year. Currently, Union Day serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Pierce said there are many benefits of attending a charter school over a traditional school.
“We have so many freedoms allotted to us,” he said. “We are able to have an individual mission and vision. We have an individual board and can make decisions that are best for our students and our community.”
With the opportunity to have these freedoms, Pierce said he and the staff at Union Day School are able to work toward their goals efficiently, even though he has recently entered this role.
“We are spending a great deal of time, energy and effort on our mission, which is delivering a rigorous, content-rich education to a diverse community of students in a shared conviction that each student will achieve high quality academic success and enriched personal growth,” Pierce said.