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Cumberland Schools' 'Choice' program lets students step outside traditional K-12 offerings


For most families in Cumberland County, it isn’t time to start worrying about the 2024-25 school year just yet. But for those interested in enrolling their children in one of Cumberland County Schools’ many “Choice Programs,” November is when they need to begin thinking about where their students want to go. 

For over 17 years, Cumberland County Schools has offered various Choice Programs, educational options that allow students of all ages to have experiences outside the traditional K-12 classroom.

“We pride ourselves in providing students with opportunities that are going to enhance their academic careers and prepare them for college and career once they graduate and continue on to their next (thing),” said Lavette Braswell, the assistant superintendent for K-12 instructional programs for CCS. 

Braswell said she encourages as many students as she can — especially those with a particular interest — to apply for the program because it’s uniquely geared toward students’ needs and desires.

“It really does individualize instructruction for students,” she said. “Any student who has a desire to specialize in an area that they have a passion for can and should apply for the Choice Programs.”

Some of the offered programs include language immersion in both English and Mandarin; year-round schools; career-focused programs; college prep academies; and classical schools, which focus on traditional education that emphasizes academics, arts, character, school pride, and civic responsibility. 

The application for these programs opens on Nov. 27 and closes on Feb. 1. 

According to the CCS website, any student entering kindergarten through 12th grade who lives in or will be moving to Cumberland County is eligible to apply for the programs of their choice. For programs with more applicants than spots available, students will be selected by lottery. 

Before applications start piling in, families will have the chance to learn about some of CCS’s programs at an upcoming choice fair. 

Principals and program directors from all 28 public schools with choice programs in Cumberland — across all education levels — with choice programs will be present at the Nov. 18 choice fair at E.E. Smith High School. There are a total of 34 programs within the 28 schools. They include:

Elementary level: 

  • Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES), is a program that offers language classes in Spanish and Mandarin for all students that combines foreign language instruction with other subjects. This program is currently offered at Ashley Elementary (grades 3-5 only) and Glendale Acres Elementary (grades K-2 only).  
  • Foreign language immersion programs are choice programs where students are taught the core subjects of English, math, social studies and science in a foreign language. The program is available in Spanish at E.E. Miller Elementary, Montclair Elementary and William H. Owen Elementary. Both Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs are available at New Century International Elementary
  • A Montessori style education is offered at Cumberland Road Elementary for students in pre-K to 1st grade. The program encourages self-paced learning and peaceful, positive environments. 
  • A virtual K-5 academy is offered through Cumberland Academy.
  • Mary McArthur Elementary offers an A+ Arts & Academics program, which integrates the arts into everyday learning. Arts areas offered include visual arts, theater arts, dance and music. 
  • A year-round program for students is offered at E.E. Miller Elementary, in addition to the language immersion program. The school year runs from July 2023 through July 2024, with nine weeks of school split up with three weeks for break throughout the year. 

Middle Schools:

  • R. Max Abbott Middle offers a global studies program, which teaches students in grades 6-8 about cultural awareness and requires language classes for all grades. 
  • Anne Chesnutt Middle offers a year-round program and a Spanish immersion program for E.E. Miller and W. H. Owen graduates, as well as for Spanish heritage and native speakers. 
  • New Century International Middle School also offers a Spanish immersion program for New Century International Elementary, E.E. Miller and W. H. Owen graduates, as well as  for Spanish heritage and native speakers. 
  • Reid Ross Classical School (6-12) offers both a year-round schedule and a classical education, which focuses on leadership, accountability, the arts and a small-school setting.
  • The virtual academy offered through Cumberland Academy, is also available for students in grades 6-12.
  • Seventy-First Classical Middle also offers classical studies, with a focus on character development, school pride and interdisciplinary courses of study.

High Schools

  • Douglas Byrd High School offers an Academy of Finance and an Academy of Green Technology. In the finance academy, students will focus on the financial services industry; courses are offered by Fayetteville Technical Community College. Upon completion of the academy, students are awarded a certificate of Financial Studies. The green technology program focuses on STEM learning, specifically highlighting sustainability. 
  • Cross Creek Early College is partnering with Fayetteville State University, where students are able to attend college classes and earn up to 60 hours of college credit upon graduation. 
  • Cumberland International Early College allows students to earn up to 60 credit hours through FSU, and also offers language programs in Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin. Students also take cultural studies classes. 
  • Cumberland Polytechnic High partners with FTCC to offer courses for  students to earn college credit, certificates and associate's degrees in a number of fields. 
  • Massey Hill Classical High offers classical studies in a smaller setting that allows for more individualized attention. The school also encourages community involvement and service. 
  • Pine Forest High offers an Academy of Information Technology, which provides classes on computer hardware, computer software, networking, computer operating systems, web design and more. Students are also offered classes through FTCC. 
  • Terry Stanford High’s Academy of Global Studies offers students the opportunity to take AP, honors and FTCC classes, as well as a yearly Global Symposium that encourages a global perspective. 
  • Seventy First High is home to the School of Arts, which allows students to focus on an art discipline of their choice of dance, music, theater arts or visual art. Students must also audition or submit a portfolio to apply. 
  • EE Smith High has its STEAM Academy (Science Technology Engineering, Arts, Math), which allows students to focus on classes in mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, programming methodology or biotechnology through partnerships with FTCC and FSU. The school’s Fire Academy trains students for careers in firefighting through a collaboration with the Fayetteville Fire Department, FSU and FTCC. 
  • South View High offers International Baccalaureate Programs that allow students to graduate with college credit and an International Baccalaureate diploma.
  • Westover High has an Academy of Engineering Technologies, which offers up to 15 college credit hours upon graduation. The school also has an Academy of Health Sciences, which works with Womack Army Medical Center to provide internships, and a Collision Repair Career Pathway, which allows students to get college credit in collision repair courses. 

The application will open on Nov. 27, and requirements for applications vary from program to program, with high school programs typically requiring more robust applications. Middle school and elementary programs are typically based on space and how many apply to each program.

The Choice Programs information session will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, at E.E. Smith High School. More information about programs and application processes can be found at www.choice.ccs.k12.nc.us or at the Choice Programs’ website.

Contact Char Morrison at cmorrison@cityviewnc.com.

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