This Charlotte private school is boosting underprivileged student performance and plans to double in size

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Brookstone Schools is an inspiring place to visit. It’s a private Christian school in Uptown Charlotte that serves underprivileged children — donors contribute more than 90 percent of the school’s annual budget.

It’s also doing far better than the average Charlotte school when it comes to measures like reading proficiency. Spring testing last school year showed 91 percent of third-grade students were at or above reading proficiency. That’s important because third grade is widely acknowledged as the age children transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Countywide, only about 40 percent of kids hit the mark.

People are so enthused about Brookstone that officials have set a goal of increasing enrollment from 140 to 250 in the next six years and doubling the number of classrooms. There’s currently one classroom each serving kindergarten through eighth grade, but that will change next year when kindergarten and first grade expand to two classes. 

Earlier this month Brookstone announced it received a $100,000 challenge grant from the Leon Levine Foundation and has until May 31 to raise that amount in new commitments. Leaders are still tabulating donations this month but say its annual April gala was its most successful fundraiser ever.

“There is a growing waiting list of families in search of quality education for their children,” says Head of School Steve Hall. “We have a gift to offer these families that is invaluable, and we have supporters who are ready and excited to partner with us and welcome these children into Brookstone Schools.” 

Brookstone School Charlotte

Photo courtesy of Brookstone School

What makes Brookstone unique?

Brookstone isn’t the only private school that helps low-income students with tuition, but it’s more affordable ($8,500 a year) than most, and the vast majority of students would qualify for free-or-reduced lunch if they attended public school. (About half qualify for free.)

Brookstone mostly serves African-American students (79 percent), and it also enrolls a number of refugee students from Vietnam (18 total) who are part of the Montagnard ethnic group.

I became familiar Brookstone through my job at SignUpGenius because they’re one of our giving partners. We sponsor two students, and two of my co-workers serve as lunch buddies for students. Our company got to hear from four middle school students on a visit there earlier this month, and it’s hard to not be impressed.

H’Lin, 13, moved from Vietnam about six years ago and is part of the Montagnard ethnic group that fled the country as refugees. “I want to make a change in this family to be the first child to graduate from high school and finish college,” she told us. “Education is important to your career and your future. No one can stop you from learning.” 

Family is a central focus at Brookstone, and relatives receive priority on the waitlist. That includes cousins, not just siblings. Overall, there are about 100 families at the school.

Brookstone-School classroom

Photo courtesy of SignUpGenius

What works?

About 300 volunteers help make Brookstone tick. That’s a huge investment — not just from parents but also from the community. Volunteers do everything from stock snack cabinets to tutor students.

Parents have to apply and sign a contract once they enroll. That includes providing transportation to Brookstone, which is located on First Baptist Church’s campus on South Davidson Street. Many students live in the Interstate 85 wedge. 

brookstone-school-map

Tuition is on a sliding scale because school leaders believe that helps parents buy into the concept and have pride in ownership of their children’s education. 

Brookstone has no plans to expand to high school, though it provides support for alumni such as test prep. Students who graduate attend a mix of public, magnet and private schools.

“We believe a child by the eighth grade has their foundation set,” Hall says. “We are committed to paving that road for opportunity.”

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Cover image courtesy of SignUpGenius

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Erin Dunn

Charlotte Agenda Writer