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New school uses home visits to build communication between parents, teachers

At Memphis Rise Academy and at several charter schools around the city, school is starting today—a week later than in most of the rest of Shelby County.

Teachers at Memphis Rise, which will open its doors for the first time this year, used that extra week week to visit the homes of some of their future students.

Claire Dufresne, a teacher at the school, describes what the home visits try to accomplish:

Dufresne said that the visits aim to introduce parents to the school and the school to parents.

The school is pitching itself as a college prep school. Next year it will have just sixth graders, but it plans to add a grade each year.

This was not the first time representatives visited homes: Recruiters and teachers pounded doors all around the Berclair area last winter and spring as part of their efforts to recruit students. Jack Vuylsteke, the school’s founder, said that the 108 incoming sixth graders students slated to attend the school come from the Berclair, Shelby Oaks, Treadwell, and Grahamwood neighborhoods.

“In many cases, I think we were the school that found them,” Vuylsteke said.

The school has an open enrollment policy—any student can attend—but parents had to fill out an “application” to register. Approximately 40 percent of the students who have registered to attend next year are Hispanic. Fifty percent are African American, and 10 percent are white.

The school’s late opening is partly due to construction issues that led to the school being temporarily moved from Covington Pike to the former Shannon Elementary building, Vuylsteke said. Since it’s not in it’s intended location, it is providing buses for parents in the Berclair area and along Summer Avenue. The plan is to return to the Covington Pike location by midyear.