CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - What do you think about seventh through tenth graders learning side by side? It's one of the different approaches a relatively new school in Cape Girardeau is using.
Prodigy Leadership Academy, located in the Red Star Baptist Church, opened four years ago. Their approach is a little old school, a little new school and definitely different.
At Prodigy, kindergarten through second graders are taught together. Third and fourth grade students share a classroom as do fifth and sixth graders. Seventh through tenth grade students have their own room and share the same teachers.
Russell and Amy Grammer, longtime private and public school educators, saw a need for a school in Cape Girardeau that was more flexible, allowed for more outside of the classroom learning and involved parents more.
PLA is a Christian school where kids wear uniforms, go to school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., four days a week and parents pay about $5,000 a year in tuition.
"Children need to be challenged, " said Russell Grammer, "But they also need to be successful."
His wife Amy teaches the youngest pupils, "They can learn together. They can be side by side and do the same work. As a teacher, I can make the assignment age appropriate. What's neat is how the younger kids really look up to, and try to keep up with, the older kids."
Prodigy is not accredited and is not sure it ever will be. Grammer said they're looking into the possibility and seeing if it's beneficial to their students and something that's important to colleges and universities.
Prodigy has seven full time teachers. Kids are off on Fridays so teachers can meet to plan the next week's curriculum and talk about what is working and what isn't.
When PLA opened, it had 19 students enrolled. Today 70 attend school there. Many, like Tell Williams, a kindergartner, come from other schools. They are at PLA because parents like Sandi Williams, felt this is where her son belonged.
"Tell doesn't compete with anyone here," she said. "He was in a bigger class where he used to go to school. Here he gets more one on one attention. Tell works for Tell. If he has a question and it's answer is found outside the classroom, we take a field trip. Learning is fun for Tell."
In fact, the kids take lots of field trips, to the public library, to the park, even to the courthouse. They learn about real life issues and get to ask lots of questions. For all of this to happen, parents like Sandi must be around a lot. She helps drive on field trips and even helps serve lunch on some days.
Grammer thinks parental involvement is key to a child's success, "Parents are a primary influence in their children's lives," he contends.
The school is housed in the Red Star Baptist Church in downtown Cape Girardeau