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Group seeks to create arts charter school in Columbia County

Posted: February 2, 2014 - 1:09am

A local group intends to petition the Columbia County Board of Education to establish the county’s first charter school.

Todd Shafer, a fifth-grade teacher at Martinez Elementary School, said the group hopes to create a K-12 school that infuses art, music, dance, drama and foreign language into its curriculum. It will be known as Columbia County School for the Arts, according to the group letter of intent, which was sent to school Superintendent Sandra Carraway on Friday.

Should the group’s petition be approved by the school board, the charter school hopes to open by fall 2015, beginning with grades K-5 and adding a grade each year.

“It is our hope that we will not face opposition, but I know that the realty is there will be pushback,” Shafer said. “We want to work in partnership with the school district to continue and build on the very well-deserved reputation the district has.”

Shafer said when the school reaches full enrollment, they expect to serve more than 1,100 students from throughout a countywide attendance zone.

According to the group’s letter of intent, the mission of the proposed Columbia County School for the Arts is to develop students to become confident, creative, and productive citizens within their community. Innovations will include:

• Daily instruction in the arts (visual, music, dance, and drama)

• Daily instruction in foreign languages (K-12)

• Collaboration between the academic and arts faculty

• Cooperative teaching opportunities between academic, arts, and foreign language faculty”

Shafer said the founding board includes Michael Berg, a colleague at Martinez Elementary; Ron and Kathleen Jones, of the Columbia County Ballet; Linda Scales, a founding member of the Jessye Norman School of the Arts; Carolyn Dolen, the executive director of the Augusta Choral Society; and Cindy Wilkinson, the worship leader at Mosaic United Methodist Church.

Shafer said Ed Innovation Partners, an Athens, Ga.-based firm is assisting in “the process of preparing the petition.”

He said the group does not have a private funding source or a location for the school. They are still in the initial stages and will be seeking a lot of public input throughout the process, he said.

“The next step is we’ll be holding community meetings to get feedback and answer any questions that the public will have,” Shafer said. “We want everyone’s help to plan a petition to create a school that will be beneficial to the entire community.”

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