The effort to open a new charter school to replace Shell Point Elementary is on track, the head of its planning committee says.
But even if the group secures a charter, there's no guarantee the Shell Point building will be available, or that the group will have first dibs on it.
About 10 to 15 parents have been meeting once a week since August, committee chairwoman Ivie Szalai said. To open a charter school, the committee must have its curriculum, calendar, enrollment projections, five-year budget and other details approved by a state review board.
Szalai said the committee hopes to submit its application by May, which would allow the school to open in Fall 2013.
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The school won't be a "conversion" charter school, Szalai said, which should make the application process easier. A conversion charter school must get approval from staff and parents of the school it would replace and be led by that school's principal. Szalai said Shell Point teachers and staff didn't want to pursue that option.
That likely means, though, that the committee will need to find a building to house the school.
State law gives charter organizations preference at buying shuttered schools. The committee had proposed buying or renting Shell Point Elementary after it closes next fall.
"It would be wonderful, but we know that it may not be possible," Szalai said.
For the Shell Point building to be sold or rented, the school board would have to declare it surplus, district spokesman Jim Foster said. The committee can't force the district to sell, and the school board has not voted on what to do with the building.
What's more, the district's first charter school, Riverview Charter School, seeks a permanent location and has sent a letter to the district for first refusal of any property the district makes available, Foster said.
That letter is more than a year old and doesn't mention Shell Point, but it could give Riverview first crack at the building, Foster said.
It's not clear, though, that Riverview could use the building either.
An April 6, 2010, unanimous school board vote recommended that Riverview be "in the area of the City of Beaufort" for further desegregation of the school district.
Shell Point Elementary is in Port Royal.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.