ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest Preparatory, located at 5101 1st St. N.E., is a non-sectarian private school that has been serving students in preschool through high school since 1923.
According to Director of Marketing and Communications Rachel Martin, Shorecrest is currently focused on attracting more students to its Experiential School for three to five year olds and to its Lower School for Kindergarten through fourth grade students.
For the Experiential School, the cost for full-time “alpha” students—those who are three years old—and Junior Kindergarten students is $10,900. Alpha students can also be enrolled for a three-day week at $6,600 for the year. For the Lower School, the cost is $15,890 for Kindergarten and $16,240 per year for first through fourth graders. Martin said 17 percent of Shorecrest families receive some sort of financial assistance with tuition.
Shorecrest Headmaster Mike Murphy says the program is well worth the costs.
“The most important and expensive element of a house, a space ship, a boat, or an education is the foundation,” Murphy wrote in response to questions from The Weekly Challenger. “We know that preschool through fourth grade is a time when the brain is most ready to develop a foundation for learning.”
Martin provided a statistic showing that “over the last decade, of the 28 students who’ve earned their graduation year’s Valedictorian, Salutatorian or Outstanding Senior award, 20 of them started at Shorecrest in Lower School or earlier.”
All the lead teachers at the Experiential School have degrees in Early Childhood Education, Martin added, and many of the Lower School teachers have master’s degrees in teaching elementary school subjects. Shorecrest also hosts professional development workshops for their faculty to continually update their skills.
While traditional subjects such as mathematics, language arts and social studies are taught, Shorecrest’s programs for younger students also emphasize character development.
“At Shorecrest we are committed to developing learning environments that are safe, challenging and joyful for all students,” Head of Lower School Dr. Lisa Bianco averred. “We believe that nurturing the needs of the whole child—academic, social, emotional and physical—not only contributes to academic success but also develops core social-emotional competencies that are necessary for harmonious interpersonal relationships, personal satisfaction and life-long learning.”
As part of the social-emotional curriculum, Lower School students attend biweekly sessions with a counselor to develop “emotional literacy, resiliency and problem-solving” skills, Bianco maintained.
Classrooms also utilize a sort of management technique called the “responsive classroom” approach.
“It’s a proactive approach to making the kids comfortable and happy in the class instead of a reactive approach to bad behavior,” Martin explained.
For example, Bianco said, Lower School students gather in a daily “morning meeting” to begin each school day, where the students can ask each other questions and discuss a topic or theme. The classrooms use a “differentiated approach” to teaching that allows educators to cater to specific learning needs of individual children.
“Students’ readiness level, interests, beliefs, backgrounds, learning styles, abilities and proclivities are considered,” Bianco explained. “We know that children are smart in many ways. We try to figure out how best they learn … We meet them where they are and build on their strengths and support areas where a child may need more attention.”
If students are struggling in any academic area, teachers can provide more one-on-one assistance. For the Experiential School children, Bianco mentioned, The Learning Center also “provides access to tutors, occupational therapists, speech therapists, a neuropsychologist” and two guidance counselors.
Uniquely at Shorecrest, even the youngest children take daily Spanish lessons and native speakers sometimes visit their classrooms. Technology is also integrated into the curriculum for Experiential and Lower School students alike. Nicole St. Armand, director of Innovation and Technology, finds ways for teachers to use technology in all of their classes. For example, fourth graders recently took computer-programming courses to create their own games.
Service learning opportunities are also emphasized throughout the Shorecrest program “so that by the time [students are] in high school, they have a strong foundation for different community organizations and causes they’re passionate about,” Martin said.
Classrooms also use a project-approach, giving students the choice to investigate topics that interest them and decide how to present information to their peers. Students can decide between such mediums as iMovie, plays, murals or presentations.
“When they have the ability to have a little decision making in their topic and also in their medium, it’s more impactful because the lesson stays with them,” Martin said.
Outside of the classroom, students in both the Experiential and Lower Schools take part in educational field trips, such as at fire stations and Lowry Park Zoo. Extended day, after school programs and enrichment classes such as music and dance lessons are also available, allowing parents to pick their children up later in the day.
A variety of summer camps exist geared toward children of all ages, incorporating a range of physical activities, games and arts and crafts. Specialized camps are also available, such as a Marine Biology camp and even a Harry Potter themed camp.
Martin said the summer camps are a great way for people to learn more about the school, as even students from other schools can join in on the fun.
Shorecrest offers rolling admission, so students can join the school any time of the year for any grade level. More information about the Shorecrest curriculums, extracurricular activities and camps is available at www.shorecrest.org.