MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Charter schools have been having a moment nationwide, as more parents turn to the alternative models during the pandemic. 

Families are learning about hybrid models and online schools – which have existed for years before COVID-19 hit and led to the shutdown of physical schooling nationwide.

“What also has come to light for a lot of people is that charter schools are public schools,” said Carol Aust, the executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina.

Aust also noted that charter schools are required to file annual reports and be audited. 

More than 50 prospective charter schools have told the South Carolina Department of Education that they plan to apply for approval next year, according to documents obtained by News13. Schools have until Feb. 1 to send in those applications.

The pandemic made many charter schools hold off on applying last year, according to Aust, partially because they weren’t able to hold community meetings that help gauge interest. 

“A lot of times when a group comes out and starts engaging with the community, they will know if there is a need,” she said. 

Groups have instead relied on Zoom to try and drum up interest. 

What will be telling, Aust said, is how many of those prospective schools end up applying for approval early next year. 

The alliance has been providing support to prospective schools by offering scholarships to its annual conference, which gives organizers the chance to network with existing charters. 

Enrollment in charter schools surged last year, and there doesn’t appear to be a mass exodus of students returning to traditional district schools. Aust is keeping an eye on the state’s 45-day, 90-day and 135-day headcounts to see if that trend continues. 

Here are the charter schools that intend to apply for state approval early next year:

School: Wright Strong Academy

Intended location: Dillon

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: 9-12, but 6-8 initially. News13 reached out to the applicant to check if this was a mistake and did not hear back.

Enrollment at build-out: Listed as 23-30. News13 reached out to the applicant to check if this was a mistake and did not hear back.

Focus of school: Documents list its description as “entrepreneurial.” 

Wright Strong Academy 

Intended location: Marion

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: 9-12, but 6-8 initially. News13 reached out to the applicant to check if this was a mistake and did not hear back.

Enrollment at build-out: Listed as 23-30. News13 reached out to the applicant to check if this was a mistake and did not hear back.

Focus of school: Documents list its description as “entrepreneurial.” 

Athlos Academy of Myrtle Beach

Intended location: Myrtle Beach

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: K-8

Enrollment at build-out: Not listed

Focus of school: The school’s model will aim to create a “prepared mind, healthy body and performance character.” It also wants growth in athleticism and plans to have regular family engagement. 

Atlantic Collegiate Academy

Intended location: Myrtle Beach

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: 9-12

Enrollment at build-out: 700

Focus of school: Dual enrollment, which will give students a chance to obtain college credit while completing high school courses. The school will also emphasize athleticism. 

Unnamed (will be run by Grassroots I Inc)

Intended location: Dillon

Type of school: Blend of online and brick and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: To be determined. Will be K-5 its first year

Number of students at build-out: 500

Focus of school: Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics

Horry County Acceleration Academy

Intended location: Myrtle Beach, near the intersection of Route 17 and Route 501

Type of school: Blend of online and bricks and mortar

Year intended to open: 2023-2024

Grade levels at build-out: 9-12

Enrollment at build-out: 300

Focus of school: Will teach at-risk youth, those who have dropped out of high school and those who are at risk of dropping out.