Parents and local educators have been granted permission to open a new charter school in Beaufort County next year.
The S.C. Public Charter School District gave final approval Monday to Lowcountry Montessori School in Beaufort, which is scheduled to open in fall 2014.
The school will be sponsored by the state charter-school district, not the Beaufort County School District.
The school would open with first through ninth grades and add a new grade each school year until it serves students through 12th grade, according to E.C. Montessori teacher Amy Horn, who is leading the charge for the new school.
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Horn and some other Beaufort County educators say there is demand for another charter school, reflected by long waiting lists at local charter schools and a public Montessori program at Beaufort Elementary School.
The state charter-school district agreed.
"We like the idea of expanding Montessori education in the Beaufort area and the innovation and creativity demonstrated by school organizers to extend the Montessori approach to the middle and high school levels," said district superintendent Wayne Brazell.
Lowcountry Montessori would be the first public Montessori school serving grades first through 12th in South Carolina, Brazell said.
The Montessori method emphasizes a hands-on, "discovery approach" in multi-aged classes. Students work at their own pace, often independently. Montessori teachers are trained to guide students to explore their surroundings and help them think creatively, Horn said.
Charter schools are public schools that must meet all state and federal standards but have more independence than traditional public schools. They have their own governing boards of parents, educators and community leaders, and control their finances and curriculum.
Horn said organizers' next focus will be applying for federal grants, administered by the S.C. Department of Education, that provide financial assistance to help start the school. The money can be used to market the school and train teachers, as well as purchase computers, classroom equipment, curriculum, and educational materials and supplies.
The money cannot be used for recurring operating costs, such as salaries, utilities and transportation, according to the Department of Education.
Charter schools receive no public money for buildings or transportation and have to find their own space and raise money to pay for furnishings.
"We have a vision for the future of our school, and we are excited to see it come to a place where it will become a reality," Horn said. "We look forward to providing an innovative, much-needed Montessori school of choice to the children in Beaufort and surrounding areas."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.