A new charter school scheduled to open in 2013 in Beaufort County earned final approval Thursday from a state board.
Bridges Preparatory School's charter application -- which included curriculum proposals, enrollment projections and a five-year budget -- was approved unanimously by the S.C. Public Charter School District Board of Education.
Charter committee chairwoman Ivie Szalai said the group was "on cloud nine" about the news.
Bridges, which plans to eventually offer kindergarten through 12th grades, will feature character-based education, Szalai has said.
S.C. Public Charter School District superintendent Wayne Brazell said most of the board's questions were about Bridges' plan to adopt an "inquiry-based" learning program from the National Paideia Center .
Committee vice chairwoman Amy Painton said the Paideia program trains teachers to develop student-driven learning. It takes about three years for a school to fully implement the program, she said.
Committee members began to plan for the school last fall after the Beaufort County school board's decision to close Shell Point Elementary School. Initially, the school was conceived as a replacement for Shell Point Elementary, but as community members joined the committee, plans changed.
The Bridges committee is scouting locations for the charter school, which plans to have 360 students when it opens.
Szalai said the school likely will be in northern Beaufort County.
The committee plans a nationwide search for the school's director and intends to hire 19 teachers and three teaching assistants for the first year.
Student applications should be available in about a month, Szalai said.
For now, committee members plan to take a brief break.
"I know we still have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us, but I feel like such a weight has been lifted," Szalai said.