Two new charters hope to teach 800 kids next fall

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Two new charter schools are hoping to get the School Board’s blessing later this month so they can teach nearly 800 students starting next August.

Vero Beach Academy and the Gwen Cherry Learning Center have filed applications for the Indian River County School District’s sponsorship, a requirement before the schools can proceed with setting up their classrooms. Vero Beach Academy has plans to start its first year with 392 students in a K-8 school it hopes to set up within the former St. Ed’s Lower School campus on Club Drive on the barrier island. The school will have a special focus on math, science and reading, according to its application.

The charter school plans to draw students from the surrounding area on the barrier island and as far away as four miles. Transportation could be provided on an as-needed basis.

Vero Beach Academy projects hiring 30 teachers by Year 4 and having a student population of 612.

The Gwen Cherry Learning Center, named for the first African-American woman elected to the Florida Legislature, has not identified a site for its K-12 school. Instead, school officials plan to find an affordable space to rent or lease.

The school plans to start its first year with 258 students in its Learning Center (K-5) and 132 students in its Career Center (grades 6-8). No transportation is expected to be offered.

Gwen Cherry Learning Center expects to have as many as 1,614 pupils in all 12 grades by Year 5 and does not plan to exceed a maximum of 1,764 students.

In the first year, the charter plans to offer seven Kindergarten classes, six fourth grade classes, and six seventh grade classes.

By comparison, Vero Beach Academy plans to draw students from all grade levels by the time its first school year begins.

There would be three classrooms each for the K-3 grades, two classrooms each for grades 4 and 5,  three classrooms for the sixth grade, two classrooms for grade 7, and one classroom for grade 8.

An Indian River County School District committee is reviewing the applications prior to making a recommendation to the School Board. The School Board is expected to address the applications at its Sept. 28 regular meeting.

If the School Board denies the applications, the charters could appeal to the Florida Board of Education.

Charter School Associates of Sunrise has filed the application on behalf of Vero Beach Academy. The company has assisted several other charter schools across the state in getting set up.

Feed the Lambs Enrichment Program, located in Gifford, filed the paperwork on behalf of the Gwen Cherry Learning Center. Feed the Lambs is a local non-profit, faith-based organization that helps underprivileged youth.

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