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Furlow Charter School in process of hiring

AMERICUS — Late this summer, the new Furlow Charter School, under the auspices of the Sumter County School System, will start its first year in the former Cherokee School building on Cherokee Street in East Americus.

Enrollment was held earlier this year and 354 students stepped up to be a part of the historic first year in grades kindergarten through eighth.

Elizabeth Kuipers, a member of the FCS board, shared information about the numbers.

For kindergarten, 50 students enrolled (51 capacity); 50 enrolled for first grade (51capacity); 38 enrolled for second grade (48 capacity); 44 enrolled for third grade (48 capacity); 40 enrolled in fourth grade (48 capacity); 42 in fifth grade (48 in capacity); 35 in sixth grade (48 capacity); 31 in seventh grade (40 capacity) and 28 in eighth grade (40 capacity).

Since none of the classes were filled to capacity, there is still an opportunity for enrollment for the 2015-16 school year.

“Optimally, we’d like to be at capacity,” Kuiper said. “We will continue to take applications on a first-come, first-serve basis. After we fill the rest of the seats, we will maintain a wait list. As natural attrition occurs (people changing their minds, moving, etc.), we will fill the seats from the wait list.”

Kuipers was asked where the students are coming from. She said 25 percent of the 354 are not currently enrolled in the Sumter County School System.

“They are coming from Schley, Southland, Crisp Academy, the Georgia Cyber Academy, homeschool, etc.,” she said. “Those 90 students will bring approximately $630,000 new dollars into our district’s overall budget!”

Kuipers was also asked about the racial breakdown of the charter school enrollment. She said 5 percent are Asian, 31 percent are black, 6 percent Hispanic, 49 percent white and 8 percent mixed. Any child living in Sumter County is eligible to enroll in the charter school, at no cost. It is free, public education.

There’s much to accomplish before the new school years begins, such as hiring teachers and a principal.

“We are currently interviewing candidates for the principal’s position and will begin accepting applications for teachers next week,” Kuiper said. “We need 25 certified, highly qualified teachers and a preference will be given to those with gifted endorsement. This will include three kindergarten and three first-grade teachers, and two teachers for each other grade. Additionally, we will seek full-time Spanish, art, music and PE teachers.

Starting in August, there will be grades K-8, adding a grade each consecutive year. The school will have project-based learning, service learning, fine arts education for all grades and Spanish for all grades.

Once a student is enrolled, they will be in and will not have to re-enroll every year. Children of board members get in automatically and children of teachers will also, starting next year. Siblings in families are also included.

The school’s vision is to enrich the community by empowering students to achieve academic success. Its mission is to offer an innovative approach to public education by encouraging critical thinking and multidisciplinary learning through and active and engaging education.

“We’re committed to fostering cultural awareness, social responsibility and academic excellence through family and community involvement in the development of life-long learners,” Kuipers said.