2 charter schools might apply to open in Timmonsville

Pee Dee

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Four locally-based charter schools might file for state approval in the near future, according to documents obtained by News13 from the South Carolina Department of Education. 

The schools entered letters of intent to apply for state approval during the last submitting cycle, but did not file for approval. Multiple potential charters — including the Grand Strand Charter Arts High School — delayed pursuing approval due to the pandemic.

There were four potential schools within News13’s South Carolina coverage area — which includes Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties — that submitted letters of intent to apply for approval. None of them applied for state approval by the February deadline. The window to enter a letter of intent to apply for approval will open again this fall. 

The brief letters of intent provide an overview of the proposed school’s size, grades that would be covered and how the public, tuition-free schools would be different from a traditional, district school. 

News13 reached out to the planning committee for both potential Timmonsville schools, and did not hear back before deadline.

Florence School District Four will consolidate with Florence School District One starting on July 1, 2022, according to a March announcement from the South Carolina Department of Education. The state began providing intensive support to the district in 2016 before taking over the district in 2018. Timmonsville High School will no longer be used as a high school, but will house middle and elementary school students. High school students will be sent to Florence School District One schools. 

One school intends to be located in Myrtle Beach, one plans to be in Bennettsville and two aim to be in Timmonsville — a town that will soon lose its high school as its school district merges with Florence School District One.

Most school planning committees start preparing a year or two before submitting an application, according to Carol Aust, the executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina. As part of the process, prospective schools have to provide research, prove that there’s an interest from the community and that the school would have a learning model that varies from existing schools in the area. 

Aust said there’s been an increased interest in public charter schools during the pandemic. 

“What we saw was charters were able to shift gears quicker to meet the needs of their parents and their students,” she said. 

Some virtual charter schools have existed in South Carolina since 2007, and didn’t need to adjust. Aust said that others were open for face-to-face learning earlier than district schools. 

Those differences, she said, made more people realize that charter schools are a public school option. 

The alliance hosts a leadership summit and a conference each year for charter schools. It also has a website and a team of people who can guide prospective charters through the application process.

The alliance connects prospective schools to existing ones to provide additional support to charters, which Aust said can often feel isolated.

“We help bridge that connection to those existing schools with these new schools that want to come into existence,” she said. 

The following Grand Strand and Pee Dee schools filed letters of intent to apply for state approval during the last cycle. They did not submit applications by the required deadline, but due to many schools delaying processes due to the pandemic, may submit applications for the next acceptance period:

Atlantic Collegiate Academy

Intended location: Myrtle Beach

Grade levels: 8-12

Students: 400 for its first year, 700 at full build out

Type of school: College dual enrollment

Focus: The academy’s letter notes that it will focus on “excellent academics,” along with college dual enrollment and “elite athletics.”

Bristow Collegiate Sports Science High School

Intended location: Timmonsville

Grade levels: Ninth grade for first year, then 9-12 at full build out

Students: 100 in first year, 400 at full build out

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Focus: The letter states that it will be an international baccalaureate career academy for sports medicine.

Excellence Academy

Intended location: Bennettsville

Grade levels: K-4

Students: 150 for first year, 240 at full build out

Type of school: Brick and mortar

Focus: The letter states the school’s focus will be on at-risk students. 

Timmonsville S.T.E.A.M. Academy

Intended location: Timmonsville

Grade Levels: K-12

Students: Information not included in letter

Type of School: Blended learning model

Focus: The academy’s letter states that its focus will be STEAM and on at-risk students.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories