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January 19, 2004

Charter school plans to use sign language

From: Appleton Post Crescent, WI - Jan 19, 2004

Applications open for Active Hands Academy

By Kathy Walsh Nufer
Post-Crescent staff writer

APPLETON — The Appleton Area School District's newest charter school using English and American Sign Language to teach young children will open in September and is now taking applications.

Active Hands Academy will be housed in Roosevelt Middle School and will initially enroll youngsters in kindergarten through third grade. Plans are to add one grade level each subsequent year. Enrollment will be capped at 100.

Information meetings on what will be Appleton's 10th charter school are at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Jan. 29 at Roosevelt.

Charter schools are public schools that are allowed to waive certain state regulations in order to deliver innovative programming.

"I think this school really meets the intent of charter legislation, which is innovation," said Linda Dawson, the assistant superintendent who oversees the district's charter schools. "This could meet the needs of children that have not been met before."

Appleton teacher Curtis Fuller, who proposed the new school, said that by some accounts, ASL is the third most commonly used language in the United States behind English and Spanish.

"It is most commonly used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and is a language with a visual/kinesthetic mode of communication, as opposed to the verbal/auditory mode used in English."

Active Hands Academy grew from a desire to provide an atmosphere where students could come together to learn a second language in an inclusive environment, Fuller said.

"The school hopes to bridge the 'hearing culture' and the 'deaf culture' by encouraging all students to learn two languages."

Children will receive about half of their instruction in English, and the other half in ASL.

Enrollment in Active Hands Academy is open to anyone who will be in kindergarten through third grade during the 2004-05 school year.

As a public charter school, there is no tuition charge for attending the school. Open enrollment applications will be considered for students from outside the Appleton Area School District.

Kathy Walsh Nufer can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 290, or by e-mail at

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