Somerset to continue elementary service

Somerset Academy St. Lucie has been given five years to continue providing elementary school service at the former Imagine NAU campus. Somerset assumed Imagine’s charter last May when Imagine decided to no longer serve students in Port St. Lucie.

The School Board, at the time, allowed Somerset College Preparatory Academy – a charter middle and high school – to expand and absorb Imagine’s elementary school for the remainder of Imagine’s contract.

Last week, the School Board unanimously approved without comment Somerset Academy’s request to continue operating at the elementary school and both are preparing to renegotiate the charter school’s contract with the School District.

“That’s standard,” Principal Erika Rains said of negotiating the contract, especially since the original contract was with Imagine NAU. She expects the contract to be ready in time for the June School Board meeting.

“It’s been relatively smooth for the most part,” Rains said of the transition from Imagine to Somerset at the K-5 campus located on SW Yamada Drive. She said the school has received tremendous community support, which has helped transitioning.

The challenges Somerset has faced, though, are ones Rains fully expected. Somerset and Imagine have and had their own curricula, rules, policies and procedures. Students and families who opted to stay with Somerset once Imagine pulled out had to deal with those differences.

“There were some growing pains,” Rains said.

Imagine NAU had operated a K-8 school. Rains said those in Imagine’s middle grades were given the opportunity and were encouraged to apply for and attend Somerset College Preparatory, located on NW California Boulevard in St. Lucie West.

Going forward, Rains said the charter expects to improve student performance and achievement at the former Imagine NAU.

“We’re projecting a B, conservatively,” Rains said of the school’s grade that will be issued this June. However, she said she’s hoping for an A-, though she’d be surprised.

“Our teachers are working their tails off, going above and beyond” for the students, she said.

“I’m biting my nails and counting the days,” she added, regarding the third-grade grade that is due out Friday, May 18. Rains said the grade will be a “big tell” for the overall school’s grade.

Under Imagine NAU, the charter’s grade fluctuated and stabilized at a C since 2015, according to school records.

This year, Somerset Academy had approximately 360 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and about 40 in pre-kindergarten.

This fall, Rains expects enrollment to increase to 550 in K-5, and 50 or 60 in pre-K.

“We’re exploding over there,” she said of the lower campus.

Somerset Academy will have three pre-K nodes. Third grade is currently wait-listed for the fall (due to scheduling, not because of space).

This fall, kindergarten will double to six sections. First grade, too, will double to four sections. And Second grade will add one more section, bringing it to four.

All that could change, according to Rains, who explained that it is subject to student enrollment demand and staffing.

“That’s our biggest challenge,” Rains said – hiring enough quality teachers.

Over at Somerset College Preparatory Academy, the campus is undergoing expansion. The first of five phases has been completed and the second phase is wrapping up. This latest phase will see the addition of a full state-of-the-art science wing with fully equipped chemistry labs.

Further expansion at the middle-high campus will depend on student enrollment, Rains said.

In June, Rains said the School Board will consider renewing the College Prep’s charter agreement for a 15-year term.

 

Learn More: Visit SomersetStLucie.org to get more information about the K-5 school or visit SomersetCollegePrep.org for more about the middle-high school.

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