Originally created 07/17/02

Board approves charter schools



Nothing is holding Aiken County's two new charter schools back from an Aug. 12 start date.

Aiken County school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to give final approval to both applicants.

In March, the board gave conditional approval to the Midland Valley Preparatory School and the Lloyd-Kennedy Charter School. That conditional approval gave the schools time to recruit pupils and allowed the board to review enrollment ratios and the certification requirements of teachers. It also allowed the charter schools to obtain liability insurance.

"This process was made more interesting because the charter school law was amended June 6, the last day of legislative session," said school board attorney William Burkhalter. "Certain parts (of the amended law) had immediate applicability to the process."

The new legislation eased the requirements for racial makeup so a school board can approve a charter school unless it finds intentional racial discrimination.

The old law mandated a variance of 10 percent from the average racial demographics districtwide. The new law changed the variance to 20 percent.

It also created a statewide advisory committee to review applicants in the future.

Charters are public schools formed by individuals or groups who feel the traditional public school system isn't for every child.

Pupil enrollment at the Lloyd-Kennedy Charter School in downtown Aiken, with about 80 pupils enrolled, is 85 percent black and 15 percent white, said Frank Roberson, the associate superintendent of instruction.

"Their recruiting efforts were quite fair and exhaustive," Dr. Roberson said.

Midland Valley Preparatory enrolled 166 pupils through sixth grade. The schools founder Lilian Thomas said they hadexpected only 100.

"The response has been incredible. We literally pulled kids from all over the county," she said.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.