Selected readings on US charter schools
“The school itself sets the environment where you want to do better,” said the high school senior who now aspires to attend West Point.
Her school, Acclaim Academy, is one of 14 charters approved to open new locations in Central Florida next year.
Other charters that have the go-ahead include several focusing science or math, two Montessori schools, a middle school for gifted students and a high school for at-risk teens. Most of the rest say they will offer the latest technology or individualized education plans.
The schools’ plans call for serving from a few hundred to more than 1,000 students a year. All charter schools are tuition free, taxpayer-funded and privately run. The schools get per-pupil funding from districts but fewer construction dollars than other district schools.
In Osceola, additional charters can help the district with crowding problems and anticipated growth, said Sonia Vazquez Esposito, who oversees educational choices for the district.
“If they can place them in an area of need, it’s a win-win,” she said.
Nine of the newly approved schools are slated for Osceola County, which has 13 charters operating this year. Orange County, which has 32 open charters, approved three. The Seminole district, which approved two charters, already has three. Two other applications in Seminole are awaiting a vote.
Lake and Volusia schools did not approve any new applicants.
In Seminole County, the A-rated Galileo School for Gifted Learning will be opening a small middle school expected to draw from its elementary population.
“We know Seminole County has some really great middle schools. They can offer giant sports programs and huge theatrical productions,” said Michele Gill, chair of Galileo’s board of directors.
But many of her school’s students thrive in a small atmosphere. “They can accelerate and don’t necessarily want all those bells and whistles,” she said.
The district also approved an application for Seminole Maritime Academy, a copy of a Palm Beach County school that infuses maritime and marine topics into other subjects.
Charlene Hill, Rycaia’s mother, said she has been pleased with the extra attention and character-building her daughter has found at Acclaim in Kissimmee.
“This school is needed,” she said. “I’ve seen the change in other students as well as my own.”
Orange also approved the Orange County Academy of Math and Science, a K-8 school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math from a board with a track record in Tampa; and UETA Community School, which plans to partner with Nap Ford Community School in Parramore. The elementary aims to serve a few hundred students in the county’s urban corridor with a longer school day.
Osceola approved Montessori Charter Academy and Montessori Charter School, Inc., which would be the county’s first two public Montessori schools. The board also approved Osceola Science Charter Academy, which is connected to the successful Orlando Science Schools; Brighton Lakes Charter, which would have a “blended” approach combining online and in-person instruction, and Summit High School of Osceola County, which plans to focus on students at risk of dropping out.
Avant Garde Academy K8, which is run by a group that already has a school in Osceola, promises electronic textbooks and a bilingual program. CHAMPS Charter School, which modified an unsuccessful application from last year, plans to focus on character education.
And Charter Schools USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based chain that saw schools rejected in Orange and Seminole this year, got the go-ahead in Osceola to open both a Renaissance K-8 and a high school that could eventually serve nearly 2,345 students between them.
Osceola parents have embraced charters, Esposito said. “Our mission is to empower parents with the choices and let them make the decision of what’s best for their child.”
Source: Orlando Sentinel – by Lauren Roth