Where the Arts and Academic Excellence Meet
About Premier Arts Academy
The Premier Arts Academy is a free, chartered public school offering integrated arts and core academic learning. We are a non-profit, independent school in Elkhart, IN governed by a local board of directors and operating in accordance with the regulations of the Indiana Department of Education and in partnership with Ball State University. The Premier Arts Academy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
At a Glance
(K-6 in 2023, K-7 in 2024, K-8 2025)
Located at The Hub, owned and
operated by Lifeline Youth Ministries
(2375 Prairie St. Elkhart)
A highly-engaged group of local philanthropists and parents are collaborating to provide a new option for education in the heart of Elkhart, the Premier Arts Academy.
The vision for the Premier Arts Academy is a K-8 school that utilizes challenged-based learning and arts integration to develop academic excellence and intellectual curiosity in our students. The gorgeous Lerner Theater built in 1924 and restored to its original grandeur in 2011 is the crown jewel of the city and serves as an important cultural epicenter. The resident theater company of the Lerner theater, Premier Arts, is the arts organization that is sponsoring this new educational endeavor.
Premier Arts has been bringing high-quality community theater and educational programming to Elkhart for more than a dozen years and boasts thousands of participants, audience members and volunteers each season. There is high interest from these participants to have a more immersive school experience where they can study the content areas through the lens of something they love, the arts! The Premier Arts Academy is the perfect capstone to a thriving arts district in Elkhart that will continue to develop young talent, engaged students, and graduates that have the ability to be creative problem solvers.
Why Premier Arts
Families will choose the Premier Arts Academy because we will offer an educational model that is more engaging and hands-on than the surrounding options.
Many parents are realizing that the traditional model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare students for a life of learning and success. The beauty of arts integration and challenge-based learning is that student choice and capitalizing on a student’s interest is at the core of our approach. Students that participate in Premier Arts productions, lessons, group classes, and camps learn such important life skills and often say that they wish school was more like their Premier Arts experience.
They collaborate, they analyze character & plot, they rehearse, they work toward excellence, and they create a product they are excited to share with the community. Parents know that Premier Arts has high expectations, encourages a solid work ethic, and helps students develop their talents. The Premier Arts Academy will employ all the character-building life skills that the program has become known for and will offer integrated arts with core academic learning to have an even more profound impact on students every day.
Our Teaching Approach
When our community focus group assembled to discuss the state of education in our region, we created a profile of a graduate at each major educational transition. It wasn’t surprising that the group of business leaders, civic leaders, and educators in the room outlined the 21st century skills that are integral to workplace and career success.
The focus group wants students leaving 8th grade (the culminating grade level of our school model) to pursue excellence, to be critical thinkers, to be confident collaborators, to be creative problem-solvers, to have grit, to demonstrate resilience, to have solid academic skills, and to be excellent communicators.
Most of these goals can’t be measured in a test score, nor can they be taught in a traditional classroom setting. The Premier Arts Academy’s teaching philosophy combines strategies such as arts integration, challenge-based learning, and multi-age cohorts that are proven to benefit children, improve outcomes, and cultivate 21st century skills.
Small Group Instruction
The PA Academy intends to make sure all students get what they need from academic support to extended enrichment through an “all hands on deck” small group approach. All-school academic break-out groups for both literacy and math are already built into our daily schedule and will allow students to get the enrichment or extra support they require for success in the classroom and content standard mastery. Every day students will be grouped by skill level for a 30 minute book club and a 30 minute math group for targeted work on the skills they need most. In some cases, this will mean filling in gaps and reteaching content from the general classroom. In many cases this will be an extension of classroom concepts and a pushing forward to challenge what they’ve learned. For our high-ability students this time will be filled with extension and enrichment activities. Every teacher, paraprofessional, and administrator in the building will be responsible for leading a small group adding to the feeling of collective responsibility for the success of all students in the building. Learn more about the benefits of small group instruction here!
Arts Integration is an approach where content standards are taught and assessed through the arts. A content standard is chosen along with an arts standard, both are taught throughout the lesson, and both are assessed equally via a rubric. This is one of the ways we will measure academic and artistic growth. See an example of Arts Integration in a real classroom.
During the daily PA Academy “Challenge Hour” multi-age cohorts of students will tackle multi-disciplinary long-term projects. Apple Inc. worked with teachers and leaders in the education community to develop Challenge Based Learning (CBL), an engaging, multidisciplinary approach that starts with standards based content and lets students leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve complex, real-world problems.
CBL is a Collaborative Learning Experience in which teachers and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and most importantly take action. The Challenge Hour projects will have multiple benchmarks, checkpoints, and rubrics that help the teacher to mentor and challenge their students toward measurable growth in each of these skills. See an example of Challenge Based Learning in a real classroom!
Art in Action
PA Academy students will also have the benefit of working with fine arts professionals daily during their “Art in Action (AiA)” period. AiA is a carefully curated survey of the fine arts that provides an in-depth study of specific art forms that rotates each quarter. Voice, Acting & Music Instruction is provided by Premier Arts. The Dance program is designed and taught by Epic Dance Studios. Once our students hit 6th grade, they get to choose an Arts Major (Theater, Music, Dance or Visual Arts) in order to begin to cultivate mastery of their chosen art. AiA is taught by local professional artists from Premier Arts and Epic Dance Studios. We intend to invite guest artists/teachers from Chicago and NYC regularly as well. We also look forward to creating immersive experiences for our students as they take advantage of the many arts and culture venues in our community. Many of these community treasures are very close to our school building and will serve as an extension of our campus. We will not be boxed in by traditional classroom spaces, instead, you will find our students interacting with arts and culture in the real world.
A hallmark of our school will be regular community expos and performances to demonstrate the work of students and in an authentic way that allows for analysis and feedback. Our quarterly community expo events will further help us in measuring academic and 21st Century skill growth. Students will publish and present the results of their Challenge Hour and AiA projects to the wider community. This also allows for more regular engagement from parents and the community and for students to act on the solutions they’ve been seeking in their projects. Parents will see growth in their child’s communication skills as the children present their work to the wider community. Anyone who wishes to see what Premier Arts Academy students are learning will be welcome to attend.
Unique Characteristics of the Premier Arts Academy
Relevant, challenging course work presented through the challenge-based learning model.
Keeping students engaged means keeping the work relevant. Challenge-based learning does just that. It offers student choice, it builds grit as they pursue an answer to a complex problem in the world around them, and it allows for authentic and regular feedback.
Learning the content areas through their passion, the arts.
There is no other school focused on the arts in our area where students can learn math, ELA, science, and social studies through the lens of the arts. In Arts-Integrated Curriculum, the arts become the approach to teaching and the vehicle for learning.
Pursuing Excellence in the Arts.
As students age-up into 6th-8th grade they are asked to choose an arts focus for a more concentrated study experience. Students will receive a daily 60 minute block of instruction in this focus area in order to truly grow and pursue excellence in their chosen field.
Utilizing community treasurers as an extension of the classroom.
We look forward to creating immersive experiences for our students as they take advantage of the many arts and culture venues in our community. So many of these community treasures are a very short journey from our school building and will serve as an extension of our campus. We will not be boxed in by traditional classroom spaces, instead, you will find our students interacting with arts and culture in the real world.
Community Expos and Performances.
Anyone who wants to see what the children are learning at Premier Arts Academy will be welcome to attend quarterly curriculum showcase nights and performances of their work in their chosen art electives. This also allows for more regular engagement from parents and the community and for students to act on the solutions they’ve been seeking in their projects.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cost of tuition?
Where will the school be located?
We are excited to partner with Lifeline Youth Ministries as the owner and operator of the newly constructed HUB (located at 2375 Prairie St. in Elkhart for our school facility. The HUB is a 50,000sq/ft community-center facility under construction and scheduled to be finished this summer. Premier Arts Academy is leasing the building during school hours and will be collaborating in the afternoons with Lifeline after school programs.
What is a Chartered Public School?
A charter school is a public school that operates under a contract, or charter, entered into between the school’s organizer and a charter school authorizer (sometimes referred to as a charter school “sponsor”). Under Indiana Code § 20-24, charter schools are established to serve the different learning styles and needs of public school students, to offer them appropriate and innovative choices, to afford varied opportunities for professional educators, to allow freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of accountability, and to provide parents, students, community members, and local entities with an expanded opportunity for involvement in the public school system.Like traditional public schools, charter public schools must have open enrollment policies, may not charge tuition, and cannot discriminate based on disability, race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or ancestry.
What is your Language Arts and Math curriculum?
The Premier Arts Academy will be utilizing the Great Minds Wit and Wisdom curriculum for English Language Arts and the Great Minds Eureka Math2 for the K-8 math curriculum. You can learn more about the curriculum choices by clicking on the links below:
Who is your faculty & staff?
The Premier Arts Academy is in the process of hiring teachers and staff. We do have our administrative team identified. There names, position, and short biographies are below:
Ashley Molyneaux, Head of School
Ashley is an enthusiastic educational leader with more than a dozen years of experience in teaching, administration, and in creating high-impact educational programs. Through her professional experience, she has demonstrated her capacity as a leader, the ability to motivate faculty in the pursuit of increased achievement, and has collaborated to build a student-centered culture of learning. Ashley co-founded and led the Elkhart Education Foundation to be named the #1 non-profit in Elkhart County due to the foundation’s exponential growth and positive impact on the local school district. Ashley will serve as the instructional leader for the Premier Arts Academy.
Craig Gibson, Executive Artistic Director
Founding Executive Director of the internationally recognized Premier Arts theater organization, Craig Gibson is a Muncie Indiana native who now proudly calls Elkhart home. He is an award-winning actor, director and writer who has given the gift of theater to our region for more than fifteen years. Showcasing local talent and sharing powerful stories on the stage is his passion. Children’s programming is an important hallmark of his work. Craig is also known for inspiring the next generation of theater lovers by investing in young people through arts appreciation programming. Craig will serve as the artistic leader for the Premier Arts Academy.
Kurt Weimer, Director of Operations
Kurt Weimer is an award-winning band director and veteran music educator. As the music department chair, he ushered his faculty members through new school-wide initiatives, advances in technology, the merger of two high schools into one, as well as playing an integral role in the design and oversight of a new state-of-the-art music instruction facility. He served on the Indiana State School Music Association board of directors for six years as well as committees that redefined the rubrics used for ISSMA ensemble performance evaluations. Kurt retired from teaching in 2021 to focus on honing his project management skills and working with the PA academy design team. Kurt’s role as Director of Operations will put him in charge of school logistics and facilities. His education background will allow for a deepened understanding of how operations can support the teaching and learning at Premier Arts Academy.
Dr. Dawn McGrath, Director of Special Programs (Part-Time)
Dr. Dawn McGrath has served as the Director of Special Education for the Indiana Department of Education, Director for Special Programs at Kokomo Schools, the Director of Secondary Education at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, and the Deputy Superintendent and Director of Special Education for Elkhart Community Schools. She earned her doctorate in special education leadership from Ball State University. Dawn will serve as our teacher of record for students with special needs and will lead the design of individualized instructional plans for our students. She has a great deal of experience in federal grant writing and the management and expenditure of federal funds.
Tanner Smale, Director of Communications and Recruitment
It is important to have a plan for effective communication and student recruitment, and Tanner Smale is perfectly suited for this role. Tanner has served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Premier Arts for five years. His enthusiasm for the arts and his energy is contagious. He will be an effective ambassador to inform prospective families about the PA Academy. His role will focus on all aspects of school communication for both current families, prospective students, and the wider community including but not limited to the website, social media, e-newsletters, and open house events.
Stephanie Krol, Communications Specialist
Stephanie Krol is passionate about using her public relations superpowers for good. She founded SKPR in 2006, bringing her global agency experience to her own public relations practice focusing on helping organizations tell their stories. Stephanie’s background includes a successful career with top agencies including Edelman, the largest independent public relations firm in the world, Matrix Partners and Public Communications Inc. She has a proven track record of helping nonprofits successfully launch fundraising campaigns, rebuild their reputations and tell their stories to meet and exceed their goals and ultimately expand community services.
Ashlea Harrington, Director of Conservatory
Ashlea currently serves as the Director of Education for Premier Arts and focuses on the facilitation of private and group lessons, develops educational programming and camps, as well as leading the student ambassador groups. Her degree in child psychology and years of experience working with students and aspiring young performers perfectly positions her for success in this role. Ashlea will continue her work in designing and implementing the PA Conservatory Program where students can get professional instruction in the arts.
Will students wear uniforms?
The dress and grooming of the student body affects the educational environment and the climate for learning in our school. We believe that helping students become aware of the appropriate dress for various activities is part of the educational process. The nature of our curriculum demands that students have the correct clothing and footwear in order to be safe and to learn effectively.
Upper garments will consist of any shirt that is available through the Premier Arts Academy apparel line. Premier Arts Academy students will have a wide selection of school gear to choose from to wear as their shirt. A wide range of colors and styles, all featuring the Premier Arts Academy logo, will be available in our school store and our online ordering portal. Students will be expected to be in a branded shirt every day unless it is a special dress-up or dress-down day. Students may wear a long-sleeve shirt (solid color) underneath their Premier Arts Academy shirts. Shirts must be properly fitted (not oversized or overly tight, and must cover the top of the lower garment). Shirts must not have holes or embellishments. Sweatshirts or sweaters available through the Premier Arts Academy apparel line may be worn during the school day.
Lower garments will consist of appropriate jeans, khaki pants, walking shorts, capris, skirts or athletic pants (including sweatpants or yoga pants). Pants and shorts must be properly fitted (not oversized or overly tight) and must not have holes. Pants must fit at the waist, or a belt must be worn to prevent them from falling.
Shoes or boots must have both closed heel and toe. Gym shoes are recommended. You must also provide appropriate dance shoes as necessary.
Will there be transportation?
The Premier Arts Academy does not have bus transportation to and from school. We will have an efficient and safe pick-up/drop-off process. We also offer affordable before care beginning at 6am and after-care ending at 6pm for the convenience of working parents.
Do you have a School Board?
Yes! The Premier Arts Academy does have a school board. They have been assembled to create strong governance and support to the school. The sub-set of the larger Premier Arts board, the Academy Board will meet regularly to drive the vision and oversee the finances and policies of the school.
Who is responsible for your accreditation?
Ball State is our authorizing organization. We report everything including calendar, finances, operational procedures, safety protocols, test scores, curriculum, staff certifications, and academic achievement to their Office of Charter Schools annually. We also are held accountable by the Indiana State Board of Education where we must report all the same metrics that other public schools do. We are accountable to both entities as well as our local school board.
Does PA Academy have to do standardized testing?
The Premier Arts Academy will utilize the NWEA growth assessment as is required by Ball State. We will also administer iRead and iLearn as is required by the Indiana Department of Education. You can count on the Premier Arts Academy to create a culture where standardized testing is not a primary focus and is one of many ways we assess our students’ growth and knowledge.
Explain why I can’t just enroll? What is this business about a lottery?
The Premier Arts Academy is a public school and thus will serve ALL kids regardless of demographics, test scores, or socio-economic status. That being said, there will be a limited number of spots in our classrooms as we usher in a responsible and sustainable growth plan. When interest to enroll is larger than our classroom capacity, it is required by law that we hold a transparent and open lottery to fill our spots. You can find the admissions policy and detailed lottery protocols in our Enrollment section.
What if my child has an IEP or has special needs?
Premier Arts Academy is excited to have the opportunity to serve kids with a plethora of different learning styles and needs. The nature of our teaching strategies and the structure of our chosen curriculum is naturally a better fit for kids who learn differently than those in a traditional setting. We will have certified Special Education staff supervised by our Director of Special Programs, Dr. Dawn McGrath. Dr. McGrath has decades of experience in special education having even worked for the State of Indiana as the Director of Special Education. Students with IEPs and their families will have an intake conference to assess the best course of action for optimum growth given our teaching model. Our special education staff will work closely with families to communicate and support students.
What if my child is high ability?
High Ability students will find the teaching strategies at Premier Arts Academy to be challenging and rewarding. The small group leveled instruction will provide daily opportunities for enrichment and extension of the curriculum. High Ability students will be appropriately challenged and will graduate from the PA Academy as well-rounded, socially aware individuals who have had many opportunities to work in groups, contribute to creative solutions, and communicate effectively in real-world settings.
Will there be sports?
The Premier Arts Academy intends to be responsive to the interests of our student body and families. We have partnered with other youth-serving organizations and local leagues to provide athletic competition opportunities.
Can I still be involved in traditional Premier Arts youth show opportunities?
Absolutely! Nothing will change as to the number of Premier Arts shows and youth programs. If anything, the Premier Arts Academy just adds to your opportunities!
Enrollment & Important Dates
Enrollment at Premier Arts Academy will be open to all Indiana residents. Guaranteed space will be given to students enrolled and admitted the prior year whose families complete the Returning Student Confirmation Form by the lottery deadline, and priority in the lottery will be given to siblings of students already enrolled and children of employees or board members. If fully completed applications exceed the number of spaces, available applications will be drawn by a random selection lottery process. A random selection lottery process will be held within 1 week of the close of open enrollment. The school will notify all applicants of the public drawing’s time and place.
Open Enrollment Period
The Intent to Enroll form will be accepted beginning December 12, 2022 and must be completed and submitted electronically before February 14th. No late Intent to Enroll forms will be accepted for the purposes of the lottery scheduled for February 15th. All forms received after the deadline will be placed on a waiting list. Please note that each child applying is to have his/her own form on file by the due date and time. This includes multiple births (e.g. twins) and each will be handled separately like any other sibling.
Enrollment packets will be available immediately following the Public Lottery on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Enrollment packets that are missing any information will be considered incomplete and will not be accepted. Enrollment packets MUST be completed and returned to Premier Arts Academy with all required documentation no later than February 23rd or one week following your invitation to enroll. Admission may be forfeited if the packet is not received by this deadline.
Enrollment Timeline for 2023-2024 School Year
December 2022 – Premier Arts Academy Preview Nights begin.
January 2023 – Premier Arts Academy Preview Events continue weekly. Big media push for pre-enrollment period.
February 14th, 2023 – Intent to Enroll Forms due before Lottery
February 15, 2023 – Lottery
February 16, 2023 – Notification of invitations to enroll sent out via email and posted to website
February 23, 2023 – Deadline to complete enrollment paperwork and accept a position.
February 27, 2023 – Waitlisted students are notified of openings
March 6, 2023 – Deadline for waitlisted students who were offered positions on Feb 27th to complete enrollment paperwork and accept positions.
March 18th, 2023 – New Student & Family Social
March 2023 – If there are seats still available, continue recruitment campaign
April 2023 – Communications about Summer Events to new families.
May 2023 – Student handbook, uniform information, Parent Advisory Council info, Invite to Back to School BBQ sent to families.
June-July 2023 – Varied summer performance and social events to build community.
August 15, 2023 – Back to School BBQ
August 21, 2023 – First Day of School
2375 Prairie Street
Elkhart, IN 46517