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No facility yet for first charter school

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County's first charter school makes progress each day, although the school still has no school building or school site, Patricia Lewis, the founder and chief executive officer of the Lewis Academy of Excellence, said.

Momentum has steadily grown with each in a series of four informational meetings to drum up support and attract preregistration for the charter school, Lewis said. At the most recent and last of the meetings, parents filled the Clayton County schools boardroom, as parents sat in the balconies.

"More and more people are finding out about us," Lewis said. "It's going to be a school of excellence for sure."

Despite the frustration of parents and desire for an alternative to the traditional public school system, Lewis said that she is still negotiating the purchase of land and a facility to house the school.

"We're trying to finalize our facilities," she said. "We're hoping to have something finalized in the next two to three weeks. I'm moving by faith. I just know it's going to work out."

Clayton County schools Assistant Superintendent Sam King said previously during one of the informational meetings that parents won't be left without a school in the fall when the charter school is scheduled to open its doors.

The priority deadline to pre-register passed earlier this week, Lewis said, although she was unsure as to the number of students who pre-registered. Once that number is determined, Lewis will decide if a lottery system will be needed to determine who will be enrolled in the school.

During a recent budget meeting, the Clayton County Board of Education heard proposals that would give more than $2.3 million to the charter school based on the number of students projected for the school.

Lewis said that a deal to purchase a facility was nearly finalized when other land owners approached her.

At one of the informational meetings, Joshua Brown said that he is "disgusted" with Clayton County schools and is looking for an alternative.

His wife Sharon Brown said the school system is the only reason that the couple have decided to put their house up for sale in an attempt to leave the county, her husband likening their children's current schools to a "jungle."

According to the school's charter, the school will outperform traditional public schools in three years on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

The school would also provide a unique environment, which would include school uniforms, days that last an additional 30 minutes and class on some Saturdays prior to the CRCT.

Lewis explained that academics will be the priority of the academy, but leadership and character training will also be employed.

Another key difference would be required service hours by parents. Single parents would be required to volunteer a minimum of 15 hours a year at the school, and two-parent homes would be required to volunteer 20 hours by each parent.

The school is open to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Clayton County and will have opportunities in dance, athletics, gifted classes, foreign language and a traveling choir, she said. The charter school could also feature a "visiting scholars" program, and she has already contacted a personal friend, actor Chris Tucker's mother, to get him onboard.