Charter Pulse

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SOUTH CAROLINA: GREEN Charter School opens in Greenville

energy-healthOn a sunny day, it’s so bright inside the new charter school on Pelham Road that you almost need sunglasses, thanks to 29 brand new skylights.

That’s just one thing that’s different about the Greenville Renewable Energy EducatioN (GREEN) Charter School.

In a sixth-grade math class, students are taking seventh-grade math. Next year, they will be taking high school algebra, biology, English and foreign language.

“So they will be four or five steps ahead of regular high school student by the time they start ninth grade,” said Principal Adem Dokmeci.

Once they get to high school, they will be earning college credit. And when they graduate, they will be ready to jump into higher education with a head start on becoming leaders in the fast-growing renewable energy sector, he said.

GREEN Charter School, which opened this year with grades K-6, plans to add a grade each year through 12th grade.

The school, which is chartered through the South Carolina Charter School District rather than the Greenville County School District like all the other brick-and-mortar charter schools in the county, moved into a building that used to be a fitness center, and a grocery store before that, at 1440 Pelham Road.

Three years from now, another building next door will become the high school, said Dokmeci, a native of Istanbul with 16 years experience as an educator, mostly in charter schools.

A German restaurant in the same shopping center will become the school’s cafeteria eventually, and a gym will be built on a grassy area the school now uses as a small soccer field and PE area, he said.

Work has begun already on a greenhouse that will provide some of the vegetables for school lunches as well as learning opportunities.

Although more than 60 percent of the sixth-graders qualify for gifted and talented programs, it’s not a school just for the privileged and the few, Dokmeci said.

Twenty percent of the 272 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, based on family income, the principal said.

It’s also racially diverse. About 20 percent of the students are Asian, 20 percent are black, and 55-60 percent are white, he said.

The melodic strains of Vivaldi’s “Spring” resounded through the hallways suddenly Friday afternoon, and seconds later, students begin pouring out of classrooms, headed down the bright hallway to their next class.

“That’s our bell,” Dokmeci said.

Inside one class, students are gleefully dipping their hands in a gooshy white mixture in plastic tubs. It’s part of a lesson about movement of the earth’s crust.

“Hands-on is very important here,” the principal said.

In addition to covering the core curriculum required by the state, the school uses an expanded science curriculum from the National Energy Education Development Project.

Students in middle and high school will work on green energy projects with college students from Clemson and Furman universities, Dokmeci said.

Parents have been enthusiastic about the new school, he said.

Shiela Miller, who has a boy and a girl in first and fourth grade, said she likes the science and math curriculum and afterschool programs. The school is a little farther away from home but convenient since her husband works at Michelin.

“And I love the fact that my kids are going to be able to stay at the same school for 12 years and I’m not going to have to be going like so many parents that are shuffling to all these different schools,” she said.

Her son was a student at a Greenville County magnet school last year.

The new charter school offers a program for working parents in which students can stay as late as 6 p.m. and take part in afterschool club activities in technology, art and other subjects.

Bhumika Chhabra, who has a fifth-grader at the school, said the smaller class size – her son has 16 students in his class, and the average class size is 19 – was among the school’s selling points to her.

The school is open to students outside Greenville County since it’s chartered through the state rather than the county district. It currently has a waiting list in all grades except first and fifth grades.

Source: GreenvilleOnline.com – by Ron Barnett

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2013 by in Charter Schools, South Carolina and tagged .

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