Last night, an impromptu group of more than 50 people crowded into McClellanville’s Town Hall to hear more details on what it would take to create a new charter school in the area. McClellanville and Awendaw, at the northern tip of Charleston County, make up public school district 1, being a rural area with lower student numbers they are served by only a public elementary and high school (McClellanville Middle School closed last year) both with traditionally low test scores that Charleston County school district has failed to improve. Attendance at the local private and public school has diminished in recent years as many parents have transfered their children across district lines to Mount Pleasant schools in an effort to save money and provide the best education possible.
Those parents showed last night that they still desire a strong local school and that a charter school is the most likely candidate to achieve their goals. Charter schools are publicly funded and free to attend. They are open to everyone and are required to meet the same test standards as a public school, but are allowed to be managed by a committee of community leaders and parents rather than the county school district board. Charter rules can also include details such as more strict behavior policy, requirements for parental involvement, and an educational focus or specialty. All of these topics will be on the plate during the planning phase of the charter school, but the idea of school have an environmental aspect that would be incorporated into its curriculum seems to be appealing to many considering the vast and rich natural resources in the area.
Charter school funding is based on the number of students that attend the school and is traditionally paid by the county school district, but state funding has also become available from the South Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools. A charter funded with state money also has the benefit of be able to accept children from other counties, an important feature with Georgetown and Berkeley counties just 10 to 15 miles away. A future site for school has not yet been decided though the vacant McClellanville Middle School in the center of town seems a likely candidate if it could be purchased, leased, or borrowed from Charleston County.
As it stands now, public support is the most important thing to start the ball rolling for this cause. Last night was the first of many public meetings aimed at educating the public and gauging support. Next Thursday, February 18th, the group will meet at the Awendaw Town Hall at 7pm to hopefully garner their much needed support. If you are interested in having your child attend this school if created, participating on the steering committee, or offering some other skills, you are asked to visit the Cape Romain Environmental Charter School’s website at CapeRomainSchool.com and fill out the contact form or print out this questionnaire and mail it in. The deadline for the charter school application is May 1st and there needs to be support from the entire McClellanville/Awendaw community in the next month in order to proceed. Results from the application could be known in as little as 60 days and the school could be ready for students the following the school year. This is an important cause for the future of the entire area, because without good educational opportunity current families may leave the area and new owns will not consider it, hurting the economy of the area.