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Local group seeks to open charter school in Morrow

By Jeffery Whitfield

Members of a local group hoping to establish a charter school in Clayton County say they are still fighting to have the institution open by the 2006-2007 school year.

Members of Scholars Academy said they wanted to appeal past concerns from the Clayton County School system's staff at the board of education's regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Clayton County Public Schools Administrative Complex, located at 1058 5th Avenue in Jonesboro.

“Charter schools give parents a choice,” said Elsa Celestine, founder of and executive director of Scholars Academy Inc.

Scholars Academy, a locally formed group, filed a petition with the Clayton County School System to obtain a charter to establish the school Aug. 1. But the board tabled the issue at their regular meeting Oct. 3. Clayton County school officials said at the meeting the petition filed by Scholars Academy failed to meet several requirements of state law governing contents of a charter school petition as well as administrative rules from the county.

“The petition did not adequately demonstrate that the curriculum, instruction and accountability programs combined to create an innovative, unique opportunity for student learning which does not duplicate existing programs in Clayton County (or) identify how proposed programs are designed for student achievement to exceed local school district and state achievement standards,” said Dr. Janice Davis, assistant superintendent of elementary schools for Clayton County Schools, according to minutes from the meeting.

Davis said a list of the staff members' concerns would be sent to the school at the meeting.

“We're going to address them and ... try and appeal issues mentioned in the letter from Davis,” Celestine said last week.

Celestine said that the school offered an “intense” curriculum that offered Spanish language instruction starting for students starting in Kindergarten. The curriculum would also feature hands-on work for students in mathematics.

Private groups or residents seeking to operate new schools in Georgia are required to gain approval from local board officials to charter a school by filing a petition.

If the board approves the petition, the school would be operated under a charter that would be established between the school, the board and the Georgia Board of Education.

The new school would offer instruction to children in Kindergarten through grade five. The school could be ready to open by the 2006-2007 school year, have an estimated enrollment of 350 to 400 students and employ about 32 staff members, Celestine said.

Enrollment “depends on the facility,” she said, adding that organizers are considering a location for the facility at a church in Morrow.

“We're still looking and it's not decided yet,” Celestine said.

Keys to naming a location include ensuring the proposed area is zoned to allow operation of a school and getting a certificate of occupancy from county officials, she said.

Students would be required to adhere to a school dress code, which would include ties for boys and dresses for girls. Uniforms would incorporate the school's colors, navy blue and gold or yellow, Celestine said.