The State Charter School Commission of Georgia has approved a charter high school in Peach County.
Roy Lewis, chairman of Byron Peach Charter High School, announced the decision Thursday. He said the matter still must be ratified by the state Board of Education, usually a formality. A ratification decision is expected within 60 days.
Lewis, who also is a Peach County commissioner, said he expects the school will open by the start of the 2015-16 school year and would be housed in the old Byron Elementary on Moseley Road, which will be renovated.
“We are excited about it,” he said. “We know there is going to be a lot of work to get it open.”
The Peach County school board voted 4-1 in July to oppose the request. Ben McDaniel was the only board member who favored the charter school.
School board Chairman Jamie Johnson said the board opposes the charter in part because it does not offer a specialty different from the current high school. A charter school typically would have a focus, such as fine arts or technology, he said.
Johnson said he hopes the state board will give consideration to rejecting the school application.
A charter school receives per-student state funding but operates outside the control of the district’s elected school board. Lewis said the school could have received local tax dollars, but it won’t because the local board did not support it.
The school will start by offering ninth and 10th grades, with a maximum of 125 students in each grade. The school cannot be selective in choosing students, Lewis said, and that includes students with poor grades or special needs. If the number of applications exceeds the number of slots, the students will be chosen by lottery.
Johnson said he does not expect the Peach County school system will send a representative to oppose the proposed school when the state board considers it, but he said Peach school board members will send documentation outlining their reasons for opposing it.
Lewis said the charter school could save the school system money because it isn’t taking local tax dollars. But Johnson doesn’t believe that would be the reality. Ultimately, he predicts, it could mean a property tax increase.
Regarding the school bus system, for example, Johnson said some buses could be cut if the charter school students mostly came from the same area, but if those 250 students are spread across the county, then potentially the school system would have to run the same number of buses.
Johnson said he also is concerned that the charter school could divide the community between supporters and opponents.
“I can imagine the community being at odds,” Johnson said. “I want us to be able to work together.”
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.