When fifth-grader Samuel Alston heard the news that he had a spot at a soon-to-open charter school, he let out an excited "Yes!" his mom Faye Patrick Alston said.
Samuel's number was drawn Tuesday night in the lottery for the Royal Live Oaks Academy of the Arts and Sciences.
The school, which will be located on the West Hardeeville School property on Church Road in Hardeeville, is some distance from the family's home on St. Helena Island.
Alston said Samuel had asked to leave Lady's Island Intermediate School, so the family considered other options. That's when they found Royal Live Oaks Academy, a planned new school in the S.C. Public Charter School District. Despite its location in Jasper County, the school is open to any student in the state.
About 450 students applied for the 396 seats in kindergarten through eighth grade. Most of them attend Hardeeville or Ridgeland schools, co-founder and director Karen Wicks said. About 20 percent of the applicants were from Beaufort County -- many currently attending Bluffton or Okatie area schools, but some coming from as far away as Whale Branch Elementary School.
Applications for the school are still being accepted -- spots may open when families decide not to enroll, Wicks said, and those will be filled from a wait list. The school opens Aug. 14.
At the school's first parent meeting Wednesday, Wicks outlined some of the features that set the school apart, including optional half-days on Saturdays and longer school days than a traditional public school -- from 7:05 a.m. to 4:55 p.m.
But longer days mean no homework, Wicks said, which was met with parental cheers.
Wicks said the school will also feature a leadership class and academic leagues, which will encourage fun competition in subjects such as English and math.
Because Samuel's a very hands-on learner, Alston said the school's focus on project-based learning appealed to her. Despite the family's distance from the school, Alston said she plans to be very involved.
"Even if I have to drive him every day, he will be there," she said. "We will make sacrifices. ... This is a wonderful opportunity for him. And it's all about him."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.