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Third charter school on way?

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:02 PM

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Hernando County could potentially have its third charter school if school board members go along with a recommendation to approve its application to open its doors in 2013-14.

During the 2 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the board office, district staff will present two charter school applications for board discussion — but only one of which garnered a staff recommendation for board approval, which is the Brooksville Engineering Science and Technology Academy, otherwise known as BEST Academy.

The charter school will open to 88 sixth- and seventh-graders next fall at the current Head Start campus, located at 835 School St. in Brooksville, and offer a hands-on curriculum, said Aimee Whitehead, chairwoman of the BEST Academy.

Whitehead, who teaches at the Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology charter school, said school officials there approached her about opening the BEST Academy.

She added she has two daughters who also attend Gulf Coast and she said she looks forward to the opportunity to offer others a chance to attend a charter school if the school board approves the application.

"I think this school will offer a real gateway concept for kids who are interested in science and engineering and can wrap all of those math and other skills up into one curriculum," Whitehead said. "Plus, with a charter school, we have more freedom with the curriculum to do things like take the kids out into the real world on a regular basis and give back to the community, as well."

If approved, she said applications would ideally be accepted in January. The process for selection would be by lottery, although BEST Academy staff members' children and eventually siblings of those in the charter school would be given preference.

Jeff Yungmann, curriculum supervisor for the district, said school board members also will consider an application for another charter school geared toward at-risk high school students, called My Choice Accelerated Academy at Hernando.

Unlike the BEST Academy, he said the district's charter school committee isn't recommending board approval for the school because the application didn't provide specific information for target enrollment, curriculum and the eventual school location, among other topics.

"It did have strengths related to serving at-risk and ESE students," Youngman said. "But there were too many areas of concern. They still have the option to appeal or resubmit during the next cycle, which is in 2013. And of course, this is still up to the school board's discretion on Tuesday. They can decide to move it forward."

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