The Academy of Hope, a year-round public charter school in Conway, is looking to begin its sophomore year in a facility of its own.
The school opened last summer and has been holding classes at Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church on Church Street, but board member Melissa McCloud said the school is planning to move next month to the former Pee Dee Elementary School building. The new facility, at 3521 Juniper Bay Road, off U.S. 378, is being leased by the school, which is in the process of purchasing the building, she said.
“The new location has lots of land and potential, and we are in the process of renovating the building,” McCloud said. “The goal has always been to be in our own facility.”
The building has changed hands since it was originally owned by Horry County Schools, and McCloud said most recently it has been home to other businesses. She said school officials have taken note of possible problems that accompany many older buildings, which can include asbestos, but that their contractor is very aware of what to look for and is removing anything that might not be considered safe.
All school buildings must be cleared by the S.C. Department of Education’s Office of School Facilities before they can be occupied. Delisa Clark, OSF director, said those inspections generally include the operation of life safety systems, such as the fire alarm, exit signs, emergency lighting and exit doors. She said there are many older buildings in use in the state, but that health hazards can be avoided through proper maintenance.
McCloud said school officials expect to be in the new location around July 16, in time for opening day July 25. The Academy of Hope and Daisy Elementary School are the only public schools in Horry County that operate on a year-round schedule.
Should anything happen to delay the move, McCloud said the school does have options. She said board members from the school and the Cherry Hill church are in the process of discussing those options, but that a short delay could be accommodated by delaying the opening and making up classes later on days that are currently scheduled as breaks.
Last year, the Academy of Hope served students from kindergarten through fourth grade, and its current enrollment is at 143, although there will be several registration opportunities before classes begin, McCloud said. Classes will be added to include fifth-grade students this coming year, and a grade will be added each subsequent year, ending with eighth grade.
As a charter school, the Academy of Hope is publicly funded and open to all students, but it is able to operate with a certain amount of autonomy from state regulations. The school has a contract with the Horry County school board, to which it is accountable for transparency, programs and goals.
The school was designed with a focus on international business, and beginning in kindergarten, students are taught both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Students have longer days, attending from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., which McCloud said allows for more preparation that will give them an edge once they reach high school and college. She said plans for the coming year include forging more partnerships with area financial institutions so students can learn more about economics, utilizing an economics program from the University of South Carolina that targets young students and involving fourth- and fifth-graders in a stock market game.
“We want to expose the students to this world that they haven’t seen before,” she said.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.