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3 Sumter charter schools submit applications

All would open fall 2021; each sponsor must have a board vote by May 1

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 2/7/20

BRAG Literacy STRrEAM Institute, New Journey Institute and Sumter STEAM Charter School are all still in the mix for establishing a public charter school in Sumter County with a start date of fall 2021.

All three proposed charters formally …

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3 Sumter charter schools submit applications

All would open fall 2021; each sponsor must have a board vote by May 1

Posted

BRAG Literacy STRrEAM Institute, New Journey Institute and Sumter STEAM Charter School are all still in the mix for establishing a public charter school in Sumter County with a start date of fall 2021.

All three proposed charters formally submitted applications last week to sponsors, according to Kayla Audette, charter schools program manager with the state Department of Education.

Audette spoke Thursday, confirming the applications were received by sponsor entities and the next steps in the review process. Each sponsor must have a board vote on its proposed charter(s) by May 1.

New Journey Institute - led by Sumter residents Rebecca Brooks, a Richland School District One educator, and Shekia Bradford, a small-business owner - applied through both the state Public Charter School District and the Charter Institute at Erskine, associated with Erskine College. Both sponsors are based in Columbia.

New Journey is proposing to eventually have a kindergarten- to sixth-grade school in Sumter.

Sumter STEAM Charter School, led by local private business owner Greg Thompson, applied through the state public charter school district, according to Audette of the state department.

The Thompson-led charter would also start in fall 2021 with kindergarten and first grade. One grade would be added each subsequent year until it became a K- to 12th-grade school, according to the proposed charter's chief of staff, Trevor Ivey.

BRAG Literacy STRrEAM Institute, led by Anderson County resident Gary Burgess, applied through Sumter School District, Audette said.

BRAG would begin as a pre-kindergarten- to third-grade school and add a grade each subsequent year through eighth grade, Burgess previously said.

Proposed public charter schools in South Carolina can seek sponsorship through the state Public Charter School District, the Charter Institute at Erskine or a local school district.

Sumter School District was the only host district in the state to receive an application, Audette said.

Audette said a total of 29 proposed charters submitted applications to sponsor entities. The state Public Charter School District and Charter Institute at Erskine received 14 applications each, she added. The deadline for applications to respective sponsors was Saturday, Feb. 1.

Each sponsor will now conduct its own internal review process of applications to include "completeness checks," Audette said.

By May 1, the board of directors of each sponsor must take an official vote in a public meeting on applicants, she added.

According to South Carolina state law, charter schools offer alternative educational opportunities separate from traditional public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently governed, and they are exempt from some state regulations. Most charter schools in the state are required to admit students from anywhere in their sponsor district using a lottery admissions process.

A fourth proposed charter, Renaissance Academy, filed a letter of intent in the fall to seek sponsorship through the local school district but didn't apply before the deadline. That proposed charter was led by a Marion County public educator, Felicia Sawyer.