Chatham County 2024-25 school choice starts now: SCCPSS charter school and virtual options

Charter Schools Chatham County

Charter school and virtual options for the new school year

Charter schools are not private schools. They are governed by an independent board and are tuition-free. Virtual options are also tuition-free and allow students to learn online. Both types of schools are public schools and receive state funding.

The Georgia Charter School Association (GCSA) regularly debunks this and other charter school misconceptions.

Charters are also subject to many statewide assessments and accountability measures that traditional public schools are, such as the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) and the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCPRI).

What is a charter school, exactly?

As stated on the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) Charter School Information Page: “A charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education. Charter schools receive flexibility from certain state and local rules in exchange for a higher degree of accountability for raising student achievement.”

A major difference between traditionally run public schools and charter schools is that charters are governed by a nonprofit, volunteer board of directors.

In Georgia, charter schools manage admission and enrollment by outlining attendance zones first. Schools then require an application with contact information, residency information, and grade level information. Each charter school has its own application timeline.

Following the close of applications, enrollment preferences are applied to the applicant pool. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of seats, the GADOE states that random selection (lottery) will be conducted. A lottery must be open to the public. Selected students would be asked to submit information that is not included in their initial application including prior test data, letters of recommendation, special needs, and their gender and race.

SCCPSS serves as the authorizer for five charter school within the district. Families should note that SCCPSS does not currently offer bus service for charter schools.

SCCPSS Charter School Options

Enrollment data provided for schools comes from SCCPSS’s latest enrollment report that was supplied to Savannah Morning News on Jan. 17, 2024.

GMAS school-wide end-of-year score averages for elementary and middle school grade levels were calculated by SMN based on the GADOE GMAS 2022-23 Statewide Scores. GADOE does not compile school-wide averages on its GMAS reports for elementary or middle schools’ Reading Status, English Language Arts or Math assessments. GADOE does compile full-year end-of-course (EOC) totals for the high schools’ subject-area assessments. EOC measures are administered after the course, regardless of the grade level.

For the schools that have grades 9-12, graduation rates were obtained from the GADOE’s CCPRI Reports.

Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School, 301 Buckhalter Road, Savannah, GA 31405

The Coastal Empire Montessori Charter Organization (CEMCO) was founded in 2005 by seven Savannah-area residents.  Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School (CEMCS) and Coastal Empire Montessori Academy (CEMA) are operated by CEMCO. This school offers educational services based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s teaching philosophy and methodology to Chatham County schoolchildren.

Applications for admission are now open. Families can register to attend a small-group tour, which are available 9 a.m. every Wednesday starting Jan. 31 through March 27. More information on the application process and tours can be found on CEMCO’s admissions page.

Grade levels: PK-5

Founded: 2008

Executive Director: Stephanie Babcock

Approximate enrollment: 207

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 5th grades

  • Reading status – 46.50% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 48.42% developing learners or above
  • Math – 42.71% developing learners or above

Oglethorpe Charter School, 7202 Central Ave., Savannah, GA 31406

Oglethorpe has the distinction of being the first charter school in the state of Georgia. This year marks its 25th anniversary.

Applications for the 2024-25 school year began on Dec. 1, 2023 and close 3 p.m. Jan. 29, 2024.

According to the school’s website, paper applications can be picked up at the school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Applications must be completed and hand-delivered to the school by 3 p.m. Jan. 29, 2024. The school then holds a lottery at 8:30 am Jan. 30, 2024. The school will then mail acceptance letters by Feb. 2, 2024.

Families can apply to the application form link on the school’s homepage.

Grade levels: 6-8

Founded: 1999

Principal: Kevin Wall

Approximate enrollment: 564

GMAS schoolwide performance 6-8 grades

  • Reading status – 45.53% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 51.06% developing learners or above
  • Math – 55.76% developing learners or above

Savannah Classical Academy, 705 E Anderson St., Savannah, GA 31401

Savannah Classical Academy (SCA) emphasizes what is known as classical education. Andrew Kern and Gene Edward Veith coauthored ‘Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America,’ in which they define a classical education as  one which, “cultivates wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness and beauty.”

No academic performance requirement is required to enroll in SCA. The school as already closed its application lottery for the 2024-25 school year, however, families can still sign up to be on the school’s waitlist at www.savannahclassicalacademy.org.

According to a statement from SCA: “Over 90% of Kindergarten students scored ready for 1st grade and 55% of students in SCA’s first graduating and second graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 earned an average of 30 college credits before graduation.”

Seven years ago SCA was placed on probation by GADOE due to low CCPRI performance. The school has since turned things around, and principal Barry Lollis said “SCA’s CCRPI Content mastery results show high achievement outcomes at every grade level. I am equally pleased to see the measurement of students’ readiness for progression to the next grade is also very high in each grade band.”

Grade levels: K-12

Founded: 2013

Charter Type: Startup

CEO: Barry Lollis (currently serves on the GADOE’s Charter Advisory Committee)

Approximate enrollment: 415 (confirmed via a school representative)

High school graduation rate: 93.3%

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 84.86% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 88.66% developing learners or above
  • Math – 94.69% developing learners or above

GMAS schoolwide performance full year EOC for high school:

  • Algebra I – 82.60% developing learner & above

*SCA does not have an average for American Literature, Reading Status, Biology or History subjects because Georgia requires at least 15 students to test for data to be reported.

Susie King Taylor Community School, 1709 Bull St., Savannah, GA 31401

The Susie King Taylor Community School’s (SKTCS) namesake was a former slave who served as a nurse, laundress and teacher during the American Civil War. According to the school’s website Taylor, “was the first African American to teach openly in a school for the formerly slaved in Georgia.”

SKTCS has faced performance struggles in recent years. In 2021, the school board denied a full five-year extension. Meeting minutes for the Dec. 6, 2023 school board meeting stated the lack of renewal was, “due to insufficient performance data and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” SKTCS and SCCPSS reached an agreement for a two-year extension of the original charter term through June 30, 2024. The board did approve a five-year renewal through June 30, 2029  as of the Dec. 6 board meeting, pending certain conditions..

Principal Yanis Medina states on the school’s website that she has set three goals for the current academic year: “Establish a learning environment centered around our scholars; create opportunities for our families to engage in our school; and rebuild our school culture.” The school uses the Constructivist approach to education, which it states is, “where knowledge is created through experience – not passively absorbed.” Scholars are immersed in local heritage, cultures and landscapes that, as the school touts online, “blur the lines between school and real life.”

SKTC’s Jan. 2024 quarterly report to the school board shows attendance rates around 94.5% across all grades as well as fewer than 10 discipline reports for K-5 and 6-8, respectively, so far this year.

SKTC’s annual lottery application is open now through March 22, 2024.

Grade levels: K-8

Founded: 2017

Principal: Yanis Medina

Approximate enrollment: 228

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 52.58% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 49.90% developing learners or above
  • Math – 52.34% developing learners or above

Tybee Island Maritime Academy, 714 Lovell Ave., Tybee Island, GA 31328

Tybee Maritime Academy (TIMA) celebrated its 10th anniversary back in September. The school initially came about because Tybee had not had a public school for roughly 22 years. People from the community came together at the time to forge what would come to be known as TIMA. In 2022, it became the only GADOE STEAM Certified K-8 school in the region. The school’s website states, “Learning … is student-centered, with a deep dive into an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws from our local maritime industry and the natural and historical context of Tybee Island and the greater Savannah area.”

While SCCPSS does not offer transportation for TIMA, the school had set aside funds over the years for potential transportation needs. Kelly Tours provides limited transportation at an annual cost upwards of $300,000 for about 160 seats that are assigned through a bus lottery.

TIMA’s open admissions process runs now through 3 p.m. Feb. 9, 2024. The lottery will occur on Monday Feb. 12, 2024.

Grade levels: K-8

Founded: 2013

Principal: Peter Ulrich

Approximate enrollment: 428

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 77.32% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 83.18% developing learners or above
  • Math – 85.28% developing learners or above

Virtual public schooling options

For families whose students might thrive through virtual learning, SMN has put together a review of a few options, including SCCPSS’s own offering.

Savannah-Chatham E-Learning Academy, 3609 Hopkins St., Room 7A, Savannah, GA 31401

SCCPSS’s Savannah-Chatham E-Learning Academy (SCELA) was included here because it as a virtual learning option, but it is not a charter school.

The school’s site states that it is, “the ideal learning experience for a variety of students including those who thrive in focused learning environments, excel in individualized work, benefit from intensive support sessions, or need a place to belong with flexibility, accountability and understanding.”

It is expected that parents or responsible adults will become “learning coaches” at SCELA. With the latest online education tools and interface software, such as Zoom, ItsLearning and Class App, students can learn fully online and synchronously. Real-time online learning also known as synchronous learning refers to online engagement with educators that is live and not recorded. To support students, the school offers qualified teachers, supportive counselors, social workers, and academic coaches.

Grade levels: 1-12

Principal: Arlethia Brown-Hall

Approximate enrollment: 485

High school graduation rate: 82.9%

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 52.58% grade level or above
    • English Language Arts – 49.90% developing learners or above
    • Math – 52.34% developing learners or above

GMAS schoolwide performance full year EOC for high school:

  • Algebra I – 21.10% developing learner & above
  • American Literature – 57.30% developing learner & above
  • Reading Status – 57.30% at grade level or above
  • Biology – 48.50% developing learner & above
  • History – 50.70% developing learner & above

Georgia Connections Academy, 2763 Meadow Church Road, Suite 208, Duluth, GA 30097

Georgia Connections Academy is an online public charter school. School advocates leveling education access across rural, suburban and urban Georgia. Its mission is to, “to exemplify a collaborative virtual school where our students meet high expectations through mastery of challenging academic material in preparation for successful college and career experiences.”

The Connections Academy is authorized by the State Charter School Commission of Georgia. The school is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), an accrediting division of Cognia. The school has a nationally certified STEM program, which was accredited by Cognia in 2022. Although virtual, the school offers a Work-Based Learning Program, in which students can earn high school credit while gaining on-the-job experience.

Applications are open through Feb. 16, 2024 for the second semester of the 2023-24 school year. Application dates for the first semester of the 2024-2025 academic have yet to be determined.

Grade levels: K-12

Founded: 2011

Principal (of Curriculum and Instruction): Caroline Fernandez

Approximate enrollment: 6,438 (provided by the school)

High school graduation rate: 67.80%

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 67.03% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 69.57% developing learners or above
  • Math – 62.41% developing learners or above

GMAS schoolwide performance full year EOC for high school:

  • Algebra I – 68.1% developing learner & above
  • American Literature – 84.50% developing learner & above
  • Reading Status – 79.60% at grade level or above
  • Biology – 74.50% developing learner & above
  • History – 77.50% developing learner & above

Georgia Cyber Academy 1745 Phoenix Blvd., Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30349

Georgia Cyber Academy is a Cognia accredited charter school. It claims to serve a student population that comes from, “every county and school district in the state of Georgia.”

The academy’s mission is to, “support individualized and differentiated student-centered educational experiences serving students from kindergarten through the 12th grade.” They do so by providing a combination of asynchronous and synchronous components. Students will balance live sessions with faculty alongside independent learning reading assignments, activities, assessments and videos. Parents are expected to provide support and guidance to students during each school day.

The academy offers unique resources including support for homeless students as well as a Migrant Education Program.

Enrollment for the 2024-2025 school year is expected to open on March 15, 2024. Visit their Enrollment Application page for more insight on the process.

Grade levels: K-12

Founded: 2007

Superintendent: Michael Kooi

Approximate enrollment: 11,291 (according to 2023 CCRPI report)

High school graduation rate: 67.40%

GMAS schoolwide performance 3rd – 8th grades

  • Reading status – 63.42% grade level or above
  • English Language Arts – 66.77% developing learners or above
  • Math – 55.47% developing learners or above

GMAS schoolwide performance full year EOC for high school:

  • Algebra I – 53.70% developing learner & above
  • American Literature – 78.40% developing learner & above
  • Reading Status – 75.60% at grade level or above
  • Biology – 69.20% developing learner & above
  • History – 72.50% developing learner & above
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