HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A public charter school that plans to target high school dropouts has received the approval to move forward with opening in Horry County.

“We are deeply grateful for the trust that has been placed in our team and the research-based blended learning model we offer to students who have not met with success in previous traditional high school settings,” Mark Graves, the co-founder, executive vice president and chief engagement officer of Acceleration Academies wrote in a statement to News13. “We hope to build a strong relationship with Superintendent Maxey and his team as this work will be strongest with a close working relationship with our school district partners. Our program is an extension of our partner school district’s capacity and an additional safety net for students seeking more flexibility and personalization as they take on more adult responsibilities in this post-Covid era. Our wrap-around supports and mental health services have helped our Graduation Candidates overcome non-academic barriers that prevented their success in the past as well.”

Acceleration Academies will manage the school.

The South Carolina Public Charter School District Board of Trustees voted during its monthly meeting to approve Horry County Acceleration Academy’s application, signaling that the school can move forward with plans to open.

“Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, I am convinced that the district approved four schools of innovation that meet the individual needs of students while remaining accountable to the high-need communities they serve,” Chris Neeley, superintendent of the South Carolina Public Charter School District, said in the announcement. “The variety of instruction, culture, and organization each school will offer families reflect the mission, vision, and values of the district.”

The school submitted an application to the state on Feb. 1. From there, a nine-member review team studied the applications and conducted interviews. The schools are required meet pre-opening conditions before they officially open.

Horry County Acceleration Academy hopes to draw in students before they reach 21 and lose the ability to earn a high school diploma. By using a blended in-person and online learning model, the school plans to re-engage those students, who it refers to as “graduation candidates.”

The model was approved last year to open throughout the state. Lowcountry Acceleration Academy, which opened in August in North Charleston, held its first graduation ceremony earlier this year.

Acceleration Academies has turned its attention to Horry County due to the 2,500 students in the area eligible for the program. After they turn 21, students are only eligible to earn a GED.

Horry County Acceleration Academy will offer year-round school and provide extended hours, staying open from 10 to 12 hours a day.

Its different approach means that students take a single class at a time. Students meet daily with a mentor, and receive a personal plan to help eliminate barriers to graduation. That can include helping with food or giving a student a free bus pass. For those with testing anxiety, the extended hours means students can stop by early in the morning or in the evenings, when fewer people will be there.

The school plans to analyze data to find where the students who need the program are clustered. Acceleration Academies is eyeing a space near a major thoroughfare and close to public transportation. The company typically spends $500,000 to retrofit a space. 

It plans to open next year.

Fort Mill Academy in York County, Jubilee Academy in Jasper County and Palmetto Excel were also approved.