The MINA Charter School — offering a STREAM curriculum (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math) to students in kindergarten through fifth grade — will open its doors in July 2020, according to a press release distributed this week.

The school’s board of directors have signed a letter of intent to purchase an 82,300 square-foot vacant structure in the Kendale Plaza in Jonesboro to house the school. In choosing that location, the school cited a study from the City of Sanford that found 30 percent of the county’s population live within a five-minute drive of the location.

When it opens, MINA will become Sanford’s second charter school — Ascend Leadership Academy on Harvey Faulk Road being the first. Lee County Schools will also open a magnet school, the Wicker School, this fall. MINA and the Wicker School will serve elementary school students, while Ascend is open for grades 6-9.

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 9.46.50 amAccording to the press release, “MINA will provide an academically rigorous learning environment, with a curriculum and educational model that will be challenging and engaging for the students it serves.” The school is chaired by Shawn Williams, local pastor and former board chair for the Lee County Board of Education. The school’s founding administrator is Stella Farrow, long-time Lee County educator with three decades of experience as a teacher, principal and administrator.

MINA (pronounced “MEE-na”) is an acronym for “More Is Now Achievable,” according to the school. Class sizes will be capped at 18 students per classroom, and the school will include a dual language learning component (English and Spanish, beginning in kindergarten). The educational model will also focus on “personalized learning, critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written skills and a spirit of collaboration and respect for others.” The school will operate on a year-round calendar and will use the concept of “teacher looping” — keeping teachers with the same group of students for two years at a time — for grades K-3.

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Williams points to Lee County’s continued growth — the district has 440 more students than a decade ago — as a big reason for starting the school. “We are big supporters of Lee County Schools, and view the addition of MINA as a tremendous boost for all of our residents,” Williams said. “Now families can select the style of teaching and types of educational resources that is the best fit for them.”

As for the location, Williams says the revitalization of Kendale has been a “civic priority” for the past year years. Despite a sale of the Kendale Plaza falling through in December — which could have led to more businesses and improvements in the area — Williams believes the school will be a significant step in building momentum in the Jonesboro area. The school offered a quote from Sanford Mayor Chet Mann in its press release: “The location of the school will serve to revitalize and rejuvenate an area that the city has targeted for updates and investment. Having MINA as an anchor for the area will make it a catalyst for growth and add to the quality of life for all residents.”

The school is accepting applications for the 2020-21 school year online. MINA is chartered to serve up to 252 students in its first year of operation. The MINA charter permits the school to incorporate an additional grade of instruction for each of the succeeding three years of operation, allowing the school to serve students in grades K-to-8 beginning in the 2023-24 academic year.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated Ascend Leadership Academy will open in fall 2019. In fact, the school is already open, but is expected to add another grade in fall 2019. Our mistake — we’ll do better next time.