Did we Just Find Education’s Hidden Gem? Parents let us in on Why They Really Chose Charter Public Schools for Their Kids

GVSU Charter School class outside making silly faces

Parents are Choosing Charter Public Schools for their Smaller Class Sizes, Incredible Teachers and Student Career Support

I’ve been wondering why parents really choose charter public schools for their kids. There’s always that vague, “because they offer a great education” response that people like to give. But I want to know the precise reasons. 

What makes a family choose a charter public school over the other school options in our area? 

I got my answer after talking to local families about what got them to enroll in charter public schools, and what made them stay. 

Parents are choosing Charter Public Schools for

  1. the incredible teacher-to-student ratio
  2. teachers who are invested in the whole student, and who are exceptional communicators with parents
  3. the chance to be part of a tight, mini community
  4. student career opportunities and support

I spoke with two local parents about their experience with charter public schools, and it turns out this unique learning environment is working wonders for their families. 

Want to Know More?

GVSU has amazing Charter Public Schools across Michigan. Find your next school in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo or the Lakeshore here.

Smaller Class Sizes Means Each Child is Seen

Christine Syswerda’s son Jack was struggling at their large traditional public school. He went from a very happy-go-lucky kid who was always smiling, to a kid who wasn’t happy. It was crushing Syswerda to see her son like that. 

“He was getting lost in the shuffle of a bigger school, “ says Syswerda. Her son, who has mild ADHD, was not getting the attention he needed to succeed. 

“I decided we needed a change. This was not my son.”

Family and friends had been telling her about Byron Center Charter School and it sounded like the perfect place for her children. They made the switch four years ago and haven’t looked back. 

“He did a total turnaround and he’s comfortable in his own skin again!” says Syswerda. 

GVSU Charter School girls doing a science

In addition to small class sizes (there’s only one class per grade at Byron Center Charter School), students often have the same teachers in middle school and then in high school. 

“That has been hugely beneficial,” says Syswerda, whose children are now middle schoolers. 

“Teachers are getting to know their personalities, learning styles and needs. That was key for my son.”

Her daughter Ava flourished, too. She was very shy and quiet at her old school where classrooms had up to 32 students in them. At Byron Center Charter School, she “totally came out of her shell,” says Syswerda. 

Syswerda has been thrilled to watch Ava become comfortable talking and participating and making new friends.

Families are Thrilled That Public Charter School Teachers Focus on the Whole Child

Smaller class sizes means teachers have more opportunities to focus on each child. Parents are amazed at not only how intentional the teachers are with their students, but also how communicative the staff is at charter public schools. 

Fewer students means more time for teachers to do what they love best. And that extra energy in their work flows right to their students. 

William C. Abney Academy in Grand Rapids just floored parent Tasha Wilson with their welcoming atmosphere. Her daughter Lyric had come from a preschool/child care situation that wasn’t perfect, so Tasha guarded her expectations of William C. Abney. 

“They really took her in as like one of their own family!” says Wilson. “The teachers care. The kids just come in and they just feel at home.”

GVSU Charter School kid playing outside

Lyric loves her school and teachers and Wilson loves how communicative the teachers are. The staff work hard to create a supportive, cohesive community within the entire building and this gives kids the security to succeed. 

“They go above and beyond,” says Wilson. “I don’t have to worry. They’re on top of everything and send out reminders constantly. They take care of literally everything.” 

Syswerda agrees. Her kids’ teachers are very invested in each student. 

“They just really care about the kids – not just their academic success, but just who they are as a person and what they need,” she says. “They really go above and beyond, making sure the kids can thrive.”

Strong Community Makes the Entire Family Feel Like Part of Something Larger

And this togetherness extends beyond the classroom at charter public schools. Even though your kid is the one sitting in the classroom, charter public schools kind of bring the whole family into the fold. 

Both Wilson and Syswerda have noticed this impact.

“The staff here really go above and beyond for them,” says Wilson. “Even if it’s outside of school.”

“Principal Lauchie does a lot of community work with our students,” she adds. For example, when the pandemic hit, William C. Abney Academy held a drive at the school and supplied families with essentials like toothpaste and toilet paper – things that were hard to come by at stores. 

At Byron Center Charter School, Syswerda says that often school-wide events involve all the grades. Family-friendly events like the school carnival and annual walkathon give kids and their parents opportunities to connect with others. 

“We’ve made a lot of solid friendships there,” says Syswerda.

Job Shadowing/Career

Charter public schools don’t push all their students through the “go to college” funnel.  They have an eye on your kid’s skills and career options, no matter what that looks like. 

Syswerda loves the career prep focus that her kids’ charter school has.

Byron Center Charter School offers dual enrollment with Kent Career Tech Center, and has a partnership with GVSU. 

“That was huge for me because my son is very hands on,” says Syswerda. “He’s going into high school next year and we get notifications about job shadowing options and programs to learn about. That’s going to be key for him.”

GVSU Charter School kids playing instruments

If you’re Looking for a Family-Friendly School Environment, Check out a Charter Public School Near You

If your kid would benefit from a smaller school with incredible community spirit and support beyond the school day, you need to research your local charter public school. There are many in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. 

Wilson highly recommends William C. Abney Academy, and so does her daughter. Wilson coaches basketball at another local high school, and had considered transferring Lyric to this other district. But Lyric was not pleased. She does NOT want to leave William C. Abney. 

“She was throwing a fit!” laughs Wilson. “She loves her teachers. She loves the staff. She’s making friends and building relationships here.”

Syswerda agrees that charter public schools are the way to go. Byron Center Charter School is her kids’ home away from home. 

“We don’t have anything but positive things to say (about our school),” says Syswerda. “It’s been a really, really neat journey and I’m eternally grateful.”

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