MYRTLE BEACH — School officially opens Thursday at the white columned building on Fred Nash Boulevard, solving a mystery some drivers on nearby U.S. 17 Bypass have been pondering for the last 18 months.
The building rose between commercial properties dotting that stretch of road and was a dream and necessity for those at Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success, which quickly outgrew its first location near the Market Common after opening in 2010.
“We were full, we had a wait list, and we thought, ‘Now what do we do?’ ” said PALS Principal Courtney Fancher, adding the new building holds about 300 kids and doubles the number of classes and faculty.
PALS is one of a handful of charter schools that have found a home in Horry County over the last few years as parents seek more choice in their children’s education. Charter schools are an attractive option as they are public schools that offer a smaller learning environment without the price tag of a private school, but they have local control and freedom in designing innovative curriculum.
PALS, Bridgewater Academy and the Academy of Hope – a year-round school that started in July – serve kindergarten and elementary grades. The new Coastal Leadership Academy opens Monday, giving the area a traditional charter high school option, while the Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports is beginning its sophomore year, offering high school students an academic online program along with motorsports training.
Lisa Rhodes sent her daughter to public school, but her son, Drake, is entering third grade at PALS this year.
“We like the family-type atmosphere here, and he already knows people in the school,” Rhodes said. “With the new school, we saw better opportunities.”
Students at Bridgewater Academy returned to classes Aug. 19, as the school has an extended year for more instruction. Around 144 students are registered, but there is room for more, said Jennifer Walters, secretary of the school’s board of directors.
Bridgewater is starting out on a high note, as it raised its federal accountability grade this year from a D to an A, Walters said. The school opened in a new facility last year after meeting for two years at Christ United Methodist Church, and Walters credits some of the improvement in scores to the school finally having its own home. More technology also has been added to the school’s technology lab, just part of the improvements being made as they align with the new Common Core standards.
Work on the building is going down to the wire at Coastal Leadership Academy, which will open its doors to around 118 students, mainly ninth-graders. The school has been assured things will be ready for Monday’s debut, and final inspection is set for Friday, said CLA guidance counselor Lisa Aglietti.
“There’s still pounding going on, and they’re working on the parking lot – it’s been a huge job just putting a sprinkler system in a building that’s in place,” Aglietti said. “Turning a granite warehouse into a school requires more than throwing up a few walls.”
CLA is in Myrtle Beach and chartered under the S.C. Public School District, unlike the others, which were chartered by Horry County Schools. That allows the school to serve students from both Horry and Georgetown counties, and Aglietti said students will be traveling from North Myrtle Beach and Loris, as well as from Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet, the city of Georgetown - even two from Andrews.
Project-based learning will be offered across the curriculum, and students will be able to bring their own digital devices from home to use as learning tools,” said Aglietti, inviting community members to stop by and see what they are doing.
“We are also teaching leadership and good citizenship, and we want them to be environmental stewards,” she said. “We want the community to visit – our students need to know what’s going on outside the school’s walls.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.