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Utopian Academy charter school enrolling

JONESBORO — Utopian Academy for the Arts will be Clayton County’s newest startup charter school program when it opens in August.

The program earned approval from the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia Oct. 30, and was granted five-year startup charter status.

Artesius Miller is founder and chairman of the charter school’s seven-member board.

He said the academy has planned several enrollment sessions this winter. Three were held in February and at least five more are planned this month.

Representatives from Utopian Academy will be on hand each Saturday this month, from 1-2 p.m. and 2-3 p.m., at Clayton County Public Library Headquarters, 865 Battle Creak Road in Jonesboro.

Miller said he hopes to procure a site for the school at 8009 Carlton Road in Riverdale, the old Woodward Academy campus and the former home of the Lewis Academy of Excellence charter school.

He said he and the board have already hired a principal, Fred Birkett, a Harvard University graduate who has worked in New York City and Boston.

“We want to provide a comprehensive scope of the arts with three main pillars,” Miller told the Clayton News Daily.

He said the first pillar is arts for the dramatic, media and culinary arts. The second is offering single-gender classroom instruction — “essentially two single-gender academies under one roof.” Third is “expeditionary learning,” which is a curriculum similar to International Baccalaureate.

Utopian Academy is expected to offer a bimonthly Saturday school program on a 190-day calendar with extended days, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Miller said the board of directors would manage a budget of about $2 million with a combination of outside funding and state money allocated on a per-pupil basis.

The program, a split coed middle school, seeks to serve as many as 300 students in year one, adding more students in subsequent years.

Miller said enrollment is free and open to any student in Clayton County, and there are roughly 200 sixth-grade seats and 100 seventh-grade seats available for the 2014-15 school year.

He said if enrollment projections are surpassed, interested families would have to submit to an enrollment lottery.

The charter school’s program information is listed at the Utopian Academy website, www.utopianacademy.com.