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S.C. public charter school district approves Sumter STEAM Charter, first in county

School will begin in fall 2021 with kindergarten and first grade

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 4/16/20

A public charter school will be coming to Sumter for the first time next year.

About 3:38 p.m. Thursday, the state Public Charter School District’s six-member board unanimously approved the …

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S.C. public charter school district approves Sumter STEAM Charter, first in county

School will begin in fall 2021 with kindergarten and first grade

Posted

A public charter school will be coming to Sumter for the first time. 

About 3:38 p.m. Thursday, the state Public Charter School District’s six-member board unanimously approved the proposed charter application of Sumter STEAM Charter School to begin operations in fall 2021.

The school will start with kindergarten and first-grade levels and an estimated 144 students, expanding to further grades and more students in ensuing years.

The push for Sumter STEAM Charter was led by local private business owner Greg Thompson and began about a year ago. Thompson, who is also chairman of the Sumter Development Board, hired Trevor Ivey, a former Sumter School District teacher and administrator, as the charter’s chief of staff last fall.

Thursday’s public hearing and vote was during a virtual meeting, via video conference call, because of COVID-19. The hearing began at 3 p.m.

Thompson, Ivey and other members of the charter’s planning committee attended virtually from Sumter via join.me, an app and online platform similar to Zoom and Skype. The state Public Charter School District is based in Columbia, and its administration coordinated the meeting.

The state Public Charter School District’s Board of Trustees also attended virtually. All members attended and include board Chairman John Payne, Teresa Pope, Kip Miller, Kathleen Bounds, Keith Callicutt and Cyndi Mosteller.

District administration’s recommendation to the full board was for approval of the Sumter public charter application.

According to state law, charter schools offer alternative educational opportunities separate from traditional public schools and are also tuition-free. 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.

MORE ON SUMTER STEAM

After beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the school plans to add pre-kindergarten and second grade in 2022-23, according to Ivey and the charter’s proposal. Then, one additional grade level will be added each year until the school serves grades preK-12 with a total enrollment of 976 students.

In its initial years, the charter plans to operate out of the former St. Francis Xavier High School, located at 15 School St., near the downtown area.

As more and more careers locally and nationwide are moving to a science and technology focus, the charter’s curriculum will have a focus on STEM, which includes science, technology, engineering and math. The acronym is often expanded to STEAM to include an “A” for the arts.

Thompson said he thinks the school will offer an innovative education option and help support the economic development of Sumter and the surrounding region. The STEAM focus will give children the best chance for career and college success, he said. 

“This is a momentous day for Sumter County families who are seeking additional high-quality public education options,” Thompson said. “We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve the education needs of our community and super excited about rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”