Local News

Start-up back with charter school plans

SEBRING - After withdrawing its application a year ago, a Palm Beach County-based charter school start-up effort submitted an application with plans to open a charter school in Highlands County in 2014. CHAMPS Charter Schools President Joseph A. Russo submitted the charter school application to the School Board of Highlands County. Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger said Friday, "They withdrew the application last year to bring it back again this year; they just weren't quite ready yet." The school board was scheduled to discuss and review the application at a workshop on Tuesday, but the workshop was cancelled.
Hollinger said Russo will meet with district department heads to answer questions about the 50-page application, which is for a school with grades kindergarten through eighth-grade. With school board approval, the charter school would open for the 2014-15 school year. The school board may vote on the application at its Sept. 24 meeting, Hollinger said. Currently two CHAMPS schools are scheduled to open in Palm Beach County in August, 2014, according to the CHAMPS website at champscs.org. The website stated in September 2012 that CHAMPS planned to open charter schools in 20 Florida counties in 2013. Hollinger said, along with Highlands, CHAMPS has charter school applications in Palm Beach and Osceola counties. "They had the one in West Palm that was approved last year, but they didn't get it ready to start on time so I think they all are going to be 2014-15 openings," he said. A year ago, Russo said he originally created the CHAMPS program as an after-school program. "It was extremely successful over a few years, improving student grades and performance, reducing vandalism, trouble and suspensions," he said. "I want to continue to build upon that from an after-school program to a school." Charter schools are tuition-free public schools created through an agreement or "charter" between the school and the local school board or a state university. This agreement gives the charter school a measure of expanded freedom relative to traditional public schools in return for a commitment to higher standards of accountability. Currently Highlands County has no charter schools. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826