As classes begin at the University of Dayton, another Dayton school is opening its doors to students.
Dayton Early College Academy Prep is an innovative early college preparatory school whose aim is “to create a college-going community,” said Judy Hennessey, the superintendent and CEO of the Dayton Early College Academy.
For the first time, children from kindergarten to the sixth grade will be able to attend DECA Prep this fall.
Diane Blackburn, the principal of DECA Prep, said that a major focus of the school will be placed on the literacy rate of the students and making sure they become early readers.
DECA Prep is partnered with the Dayton Early College Academy High School which opened in 2003, according to the school’s website, DECAPrep.org. In 2008, the Dayton Early College Academy opened the DECA Junior High School.
Many of the students who attend this school will be the first in their families to go to college, Hennessey said.
DECA Prep also plans to make the students college-ready by getting parents more involved in the children’s schooling, Blackburn said.
“It’s not that we’re just listening to [the parents], it’s beyond that, it’s a partnership where we work together,” she said. “It’s a very important goal of ours.”
The parents work together with the school to help assess and meet the children’s strengths and needs, Blackburn said. For example, an increased emphasis has been placed on character development and education since many parents expressed that it was an important need for the children to have met.
“We really wanted to meet that need that the parents expressed and really thought it was a great idea,” Blackburn said.
Character development will be taught by the teachers in the classrooms, but also individually by a special counselor DECA Prep hired, Blackburn said.
“[Character development] provides a foundation for the rules in school so the children understand why we have these rules,” she said.
Another focus of the school is going to be on developing well-rounded students and promoting active, hands on learning, she said.
“At a time where lots of schools are cutting out physical education, music, and art, that’s what we are opening with,” she said. “We think it’s critical to their development as a whole learner.”
The school will be equipped with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math lab, which will be used by students from all grades, said Blackburn. This will help to promote a research- based approach to learning early on, allowing the children to be actively engaged in their work, she said.
The University of Dayton has also been involved in the development of DECA, and the DECA High School building is on UD’s campus.
“It’s really exciting seeing the students of DECA right there on campus with the influence of the university faculty and students,” Blackburn said.
Faculty members at UD have reached out to the school to offer their assistance, and several of the teachers at DECA Prep are UD graduates, Blackburn said.
“There’s definitely a UD influence in the building,” Hennessey said.