New Charter Schools Likely to Be OK'd; Both Targeting At-Risk Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Cynthia L. Garza , Times-Union staff writer

The Duval County School Board is poised to approve two new charter schools at tonight's board meeting that would open by the 2004-05 school year.

Charter schools are taxpayer-funded and open to the public. The schools are run by non-profit groups and have the flexibility to set their own rules on curriculum, teaching style, personnel and discipline.

The two charter school applicants -- School for Integrated Academics and Technologies, or SIATech, and Sojourner Truth High School of Humanities and Technology would be for grades nine through 12.

"All committee members have been very pleased with the two applicants," said Aimee Tous-Parker, Duval County charter school coordinator.

There are seven such schools in Duval County and 262 across Florida. Three of the school system's charter schools -- Rader School, Impact Academy, and Empowering Young Minds Academy -- were closed several years ago because of mismanagement or financial problems.

"This is a serious proposal," Tous-Parker said. "They're pretty much applying to become a business and run a school, so we do take it seriously."

Both charter school applicants would target at-risk high school students. Students would still be required to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Sojourner Truth High School at 4951 Richard St. plans to focus on at-risk students from south Jacksonville. The school would offer elective classes in conjunction with Jacksonville Academy of Electrical Technology.

The school would actively recruit students who are behind in credits or grades, have low test scores or have truancy issues.

This the second charter school application for Schools for Integrated Academics and Technologies, which is partnered with the Jacksonville Job Corps Center and the U.S. Department of Labor.

In November, school system staff recommended its application be rejected because of budget and curriculum concerns.

"Last year, we did not have adequate time to prepare and to submit the application," said Omoniyi Amoran, center director for the Job Corps. This year, SIATech officials worked closely with Duval County school officials to prepare and submit the application.

SIATech hopes to "break the cycle of poverty and under-achievement for youth who have dropped out of the traditional education system," according to its application. The school would focus on the student academic achievement, vocational training and workplace readiness.

SIATech would be at a Jacksonville Job Corps Center under construction in northwest Jacksonville at 4800 Walgreen Road. …

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