Charter school strikes deal on AHA's building
by Laura Braddick
lbraddick@cherokeetribune.com
March 15, 2011 11:03 PM | 6072 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cherokee County's first charter school has found a home at the site of American Heritage Academy.

Cherokee Charter Academy is purchasing the private school campus on Sixes Road in Canton for an undisclosed amount. A lender on Friday advertised it would foreclose on the campus next month due to a $12 million debt.

"It just happened to be perfect timing," said Rebecca Dinda, director of education for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Charter Schools USA, which will be operating the public charter school. "The site is a perfect option, and the school and location is absolutely beautiful."

The charter school's location was announced at an informational meeting on Tuesday night at Sixes Road Presbyterian Church.

Ms. Dinda said the school plans to move in during the summer once American Heritage has finished its spring semester.

In accordance with its five-year charter from the state, Cherokee Charter Academy will enroll 710 students in kindergarten through seventh grade for the 2011-12 school year.

The plans are to have five kindergarten classes, four classes per grades first through sixth and two classes for seventh grades. Applications for enrollment will be accepted until April 15.

So far the school has received about 1,100 applications, said Ms. Dinda.

The students will be chosen by a random, computer-operated lottery at the end of April, and families will be notified of their status by May.

Applications for children with school-age siblings will be the only groups flagged with preference.

"The best time to get in both children will be the first year," Ms. Dinda said.

Once students are accepted, they will then have to be registered to secure their seat.

Applicants who don't make the first wave of acceptance will be put on a waiting list to be used if accepted children fail to register or leave the school.

The school will begin the application process for hiring its staff and teachers next month. School staff will also receive preference in applications for their children.

About 350 people showed up for the meeting, which covered topics ranging from operational procedures to educational models and philosophies.

Michele Szymoniac was at the meeting because she and her husband, Scott, are preparing for their first daughter, Taylor, 5, to enter kindergarten this coming school year.

"I'm still interested in the school. I'm just nervous since it's a new school," she said. "I don't want to put her somewhere then have to uproot her."

Mrs. Szymoniac said she likes the idea of the more individualized teaching the charter school organizers offered.

"I want her to be challenged," she said. "I just haven't been exposed to [charter schools] before."

Woodstock resident Mandy Squires said she was going to apply for her son Hayden, 6, a first-grader at Arnold Mill Elementary School.

"I'm happy with his school and his teachers, but I'm not happy with how big the classes are getting," she said.

Ms. Squires also said she was not impressed with the current school curriculum. She said she planned to go home and research more about the charter school's approach.

Cherokee Charter Academy will follow the state's Georgia Performance Standards for each level and will participate in the Criterion Referenced Competency Test each spring.

"Standardized testing has not had a great reputation the last few years, but we truly believe we are teaching the standards so well, students will do well on that test without teaching the test," Ms. Dinda said.

Limited transportation will be provided by the school and will be based on the greatest location of need, she said.
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