Peach BOE to vote on Byron Peach Charter High School petition

alopez@macon.comJune 24, 2014 

FORT VALLEY -- Last year, a petition to open a charter high school in Byron was rejected by both the county and state boards of education.

The Byron Peach Charter High School Association submitted a new petition May 29, and the Peach County school board will vote on the measure at its next work session July 29.

Should the local board deny the petition, the state Board of Education could still override its decision and approve the charter high school.

“I really feel strongly about our petition,” B.J. Walker, an association board member, told the Peach school board Tuesday. “I’d much rather us be united, and y’all being the local educational agency, that we work together.”

If the petition is approved, the Byron Peach Charter High School would open for the 2015-16 academic year.

Charter schools traditionally focus on fulfilling a niche need or have a unique theme. Peach County school board member Donald Williams asked the charter school group about its theme.

Charter school board member Richard Sietsema said the school would be a comprehensive high school with the mission of preparing students for college and professional careers.

Other Peach school board members had questions about the charter school petition. Robert Hammack asked about transportation and special education at the charter school, and Virginia Dixon asked about its financial sustainability.

Walker admitted that because the proposed charter school would not be able to provide busing, it would have to work hard to ensure transportation is not a barrier for potential students. He also affirmed the school’s commitment to serving special needs students.

In regard to financial sustainability, Walker said the school would have to raise money to bridge the gap between state funding per student and the actual costs to educate a student at the school.

Charters are approved on a five-year basis, Walker said, so the school would have to prove itself in regard to meeting academic goals and financial stability before applying for a renewal.

“We don’t want to take every student from Peach County, and we don’t want to attack Peach County High School and the job that you guys are doing,” Walker said. “But we do believe that we have some constituents that do back us. We have signed petitions. There is a large amount of stakeholders, parents in the community that do believe in this.”

The idea is for Byron Peach Charter High School to provide additional value to Peach County, not to compete with its pubic school system, Siet­sema said.

“We will probably have some of the same things you do, but we may approach it a little bit differently. And we know that everyone does not learn in the same way,” Siet­sema said. “Everybody has different learning styles.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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