Jasper County's first charter school is set to open in August, and its founders urge parents interested in sending their children there -- whether they live in the county or not -- to apply soon.
The Royal Live Oaks Academy of the Arts and Sciences is expected to accommodate 396 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, according to Karen Wicks, one of the school's founders. The school intends to add one grade level each year until it goes through 12th grade.
About 150 students have applied to attend, so spots are going quickly, Wicks said. The application is available online; open enrollment ends Feb. 1.
"Do it early; don't wait," said Les Wicks, another founder.
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The husband-and-wife team said the school will have to hold a lottery if there are more applicants than seats.
Enrollment is open to any student in the state because it is part of the S.C. Charter School District. Les Wicks said he hopes the school's location will make it convenient for families in both Jasper and Beaufort counties.
The school has agreed to lease the West Hardeeville School property on Church Road from the Jasper County School District. The school is about 2.5 miles away from exit 5 on Interstate 95; Les Wicks estimated the school was about a 20- to 25-minute drive from Bluffton.
The lease is for as many as 20 years, Les Wicks said, but organizers anticipate using the building for 10 years.
The building will require a lot of renovations -- it was built in the 1960s and has been vacant for several years. It needs new wiring, plumbing and insulation among other things, Les Wicks said.
He said he appreciates the history of the building, even if it means a lot of work to make it habitable.
"What's neat about the facility is that there's been tens of thousands of graduates from there. Our students' moms, dads and grandparents went there," he said. "A new building doesn't have any part of that."
Les Wicks said the school also is accepting teachers' applications. More than 20 teachers will be needed when the school opens. Each grade will have two classrooms. Assistant teachers and master teachers will float from classroom to classroom.
Having that many teachers in classrooms of 22 students helps with the school's goal of education tailored to the student, Karen Wicks said.
"We find where (students') needs and where their desires are, and we go in that direction," Les Wicks said.
Students also will frequently participate in projects with a real-world connection. Not every child will be working on the same task at the same time.
The school days will also be longer than in a traditional public school -- from 7:05 a.m. to 4:55 p.m. There will also be optional half-days on Saturdays.
Longer school days mean no homework, Karen Wicks said. Students will use the extra time to complete projects or get extra help.
"That's a long day for a child," Karen Wicks said. "So when they leave to go home, they'll be able to become a child again."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.