Monday, November 26, 2012

Hollywood Charter School on Its Way

One of Charleston County's newest public charter schools (state-chartered, of course, since CCSD refuses to cooperate with charters) has found a different way to get a suitable school building.
HOLLYWOOD — A rural charter school slated to open next fall has overcome perhaps the biggest hurdle it will face — finding a building.

Lowcountry Leadership Charter plans to open its doors to 400 students in the space occupied by St. Paul’s Academy this year. The private school that serves preschool through eighth-graders will shut down at the end of this school year, and the new charter school will renovate, demolish and rebuild pieces of the existing campus to fit its needs.

“If we don’t have a building for kids to go to, you can’t have the school,” said Dee Crawford, who chairs the charter school’s board. “This is a huge piece of the puzzle, and the community is excited.”

Multiple efforts to reach the principal and the board chair of St. Paul’s Academy were unsuccessful.

Lowcountry Leadership Charter officials had approached Charleston County school leaders about using the former R.D. Schroder Middle campus, but they said those talks weren’t moving fast enough for its August 2013 scheduled opening.

They looked at alternatives, and they learned about a Utah-based company, HighMark School Development, that builds exclusively for charter schools. South Carolina charter schools don’t receive funding dedicated for facilities, so HighMark signed a contract with St. Paul’s Academy to buy the building.

HighMark and another investor will provide the money needed to renovate and build the new school, and the charter school will pay interest and buy it from them over time, Crawford said. Once students are enrolled, the charter school will have enough money to do that, she said.

The construction should be finished by the school’s opening. School leaders still are deciding on the extent of the work that will be completed, and Crawford declined to give a cost estimate until those decisions had been made.

The school’s mission is to develop student leaders through a project-based learning approach, and that involves inquiry- based learning or students figuring out the solution to a problem or question.

The school is accepting applications until Dec. 15, and officials say they’ve gotten a good response thus far.

Chryse Jackson is one of the charter school’s board members, and she has two school-age children she plans to enroll for next fall. She said parents in rural communities deserve the same kinds of choices as those in more populated areas.

“It’s an opportunity for our kids to attend a neighborhood school in their home community,” she said. “We’re working to not only give our kids (that option), but to give that to the community for years and years to come.”

Any South Carolina student will be eligible to attend because the school’s charter comes from the statewide district.
The new charter clearly will be much larger than the present St. Paul's community of around 50 students.

1 comment:

Clisby said...

This raises a lot of questions in my mind, starting with "What's in it for HighMark?" and "Where are they going to find 400 students?"

And I'm not a charter school opponent - both my children attended a charter school (one still does), and I was on the CCSMS committee.