They're down to paying for the floor tiles and glass windows.
That's all that's needed to open a two-story school in a Maya community in Guatemala, where teachers from the Lake Norman area have forged cultural and educational relationships for five years.
Three of the teachers will return for 10 days to the village in the state of Chimaltenango in mid-June, to celebrate the school's expected completion. Nearly 200 students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be educated there each year.
About 15 lake-area teachers, most from Community School of Davidson and one from Pine Lake Preparatory in Mount Mourne, have delivered books and school and art supplies to the community and shared progressive teaching methods. They also raised nearly $20,000 over the years to build the school.
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"Our main focus is to bring teaching methods to teachers there," said Karin Solomonson, a former middle school Spanish teacher at Community School of Davidson. She now co-directs LEAP (Learn, Explore, Achieve, Partner), the nonprofit organization that grew from the teachers' effort.
Guatemala's education system suffered in the country's 36-year civil war - which forced a generation to focus on survival - before it ended in 1996.
The country's literacy rate is 69percent, compared with 99percent in the U.S., according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's "The World Factbook."
In the highland village the teachers visit each summer, it used to be that only a quarter of students made it past sixth grade, Solomonson said, although that's begun to change in recent years. Eighty percent of sixth-graders now move on to seventh grade.
Village residents credit the work of the Lake Norman-area teachers with renewing the community's emphasis on education. Parents frequent school workshops, and nearly 20 teenagers have surpassed their entire family's level of education by advancing to high school, the Observer reported in an article about LEAP last year.
"'You guys are changing our history,'" Solomonson told me the school's director, Moises Ajquejay Chamali, wrote to the lake-area teachers last year.
The teachers never dictate what they think is needed, instead asking the community, she said.
Solomonson will head to Guatemala in June with Community School of Davidson teachers Elissa Huffstetler, who co-directs LEAP, and Kristen Patterson, a LEAP board member.They plan to conduct teacher workshops and ask, "Where do you guys want to go from here?" Solomonson said.
The teachers have raised all but $2,500 of an $8,000 goal for finishing the school.
Future needs will include computers for the building's computer lab, where students, parents and other adults will learn. Computers allow members of the village to access long-distance learning, Solomonson said.
Educational needs are expected to continue in the years ahead, and LEAP plans to be there to help.
Solomonson said village residents have told the teachers how much their presence has meant to them.
"We're not invisible anymore," villagers have told the teachers time and again.