New charter school with focus on inclusivity opens in Decatur

A new charter school that recently opened in Decatur for the 2023-24 school year is taking a unique approach to education by focusing on a culturally affirming and anti-racism curriculum, according to officials.

PEACE Academy, a tuition-free character school now serving students in kindergarten through third grade, combines diversity, inclusion, and a restorative justice approach for conflict resolution, helping students learn how to dismantle systemic prejudices—all on top of a commitment to academic excellence and innovative learning, stated Lauren Shankman with the Georgia Charter School Association.

The idea for the charter school came when Ebony Payne Brown, founder of PEACE Academy, was looking for a school that celebrated diversity for her own child.

“I’ve lived in Decatur for 10 years now and there just aren’t a lot of school choice options in this area,” said Payne Brown. “I really wanted my child to go to a school that had a critical thinking focus, and I wanted my child to be affirmed in their culture.”

After searching through multiple counties and properties, Payne Brown said she landed on a location on Candler Road.

“When I saw the big open space, it felt right,” she said. “This is a thriving area, and I knew we would be in a place where we could grow.”

After the approximately 20,000-square-foot building that was once a flea market was renovated, PEACE Academy now is equipped with three kindergarten classrooms, two first-grade classrooms, one second-grade classroom and one third-grade classroom as well as spaces dedicated to gym, performing arts, computer sciences and coding, and other special interest classes.

Unlike many public schools, PEACE Academy is fully staffed with a ratio of about one teacher per 15 students, said Payne Brown.

With the passage of Georgia Senate Bill 377 in 2022, often referred to as the “divisive concepts” bill, which forbids teaching certain concepts related to race and ethnicity in public schools, Payne Brown said PEACE Academy may be an option for families searching for a more fully comprehensive education for their children.

“Our school is the opposite of divisive,” she said. “One of our core values is inclusivity and one of the most important programs we offer is a cultural immersion program. Each day, our students get a cultural studies course and through those courses, we teach them to not only love themselves and the unique aspects of their own cultures but also to love and appreciate other cultures. Instead of our children growing up, going out into the world, seeing someone different and automatically thinking ‘that must be bad,’ we’re teaching our students to see your differences as beautiful and their own differences as beautiful.”

As the student body and staff grows, Payne Brown said the school will increase grade levels each year, eventually serving kindergarten through eighth grade.

Student enrollment is still available for some grades at PEACE Academy, which is located at 1954 Candler Road in Decatur. For more information, visit https://peaceacademycharter.org/

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