#FridayFacts: An Intro to University Charter School
At University Charter School, we operate under the principle that full transparency is the best way to achieve collaborative success. In that spirit, we will be beginning a series called #FridayFacts that will inform the public on the upcoming University Charter School to ensure that our community understands our mission, model, and motives. We view our community as our partners in bringing about meaningful change to our region, and thus providing a first-class educational option to the children of Sumter County and the Black Belt Region.
What are public charter schools?
Public charter schools are public schools. Public charter schools are granted flexibility from certain state laws in exchange for greater accountability in improving student achievement. As public schools, they are tuition-free, funded by public dollars, and are held to similar – yet more rigorous – academic, managerial, and fiscal standards as other public schools. An independent board that promotes a strong collaboration between parents, teachers, students, and their communities governs public charter schools. Such collaboration will create an environment where parents and the community can be more involved, and teachers have more autonomy to meet the needs of their students. Thus, public charter school students are given the necessary structure and rich learning environment they need to be successful. Being public schools, they are open enrollment so long as capacity allows, and must adhere to all state and federal laws and authorities related to safety, health, and civil rights. Public charter schools are required to administer the same statewide standardized assessments as non-charter public schools.
What is the University Charter School?
University Charter School (UCS) is a public charter school, approved in July 2017 by the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, that will be located in Livingston, Alabama and will serve grades PK-8th beginning in fall 2018. UCS will add one grade per year thereafter reaching capacity as a PK-12 school in 2022.
While UCS has a strong partnership with the University of West Alabama, it is operated by an independent non-profit corporation (University Charter School) and a governing Board of Directors. UCS is led by Dr. JJ Wedgworth, Head of School. The relationship with UWA gives UCS access to many resources that will aid in the success of its mission of “being a rural, diverse K-12 school that cultivates independent thought, promotes the building of character and civic responsibility and is committed to preparing all students for personal and professional success through the discovery of individual learning pathways in a rigorous and integrated Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STREAM) focused, project-based and place-based curriculum.”
Who can attend UCS?
UCS is open enrollment, meaning that anyone can attend and there are no other requirements for admission (i.e. students will NOT have to be tested to be admitted to UCS). However, University Charter School’s (UCS) enrollment will be open first to Sumter County, Alabama, residents. Enrollment priority will also be given to students enrolled in the public charter school the previous year (for future years), to siblings of students already enrolled in the public charter school, and to children of UCS Board of Directors and UCS full-time employees, limiting preference of Board and Employee children to no more than 10% of the UCS student population.
We are excited that we have already begun enrollment for the founding classes of University Charter School! Our enrollment process will include three phases: pre-registration, seat offering and acceptance, and final registration.
Pre-Registration for K-8th Grade for Sumter County residents is happening now: November 15-December 13, 2017. If pre-registration does not exceed capacity, Sumter County students will be offered available seats on a first-come, first serve basis. If the number of Sumter County pre-registrants exceeds capacity, a lottery for Sumter County residents will be held on December 14, 2017. Pre-Registration for K-8th Grade non-Sumter County residents: January 3, 2018-January 31, 2018. If the number of pre-registrants exceeds space remaining after Sumter County registration, a lottery for non-Sumter residents will be held on Feb 1, 2018. If the number does not exceed availability, this lottery will not be necessary, and students will be offered available seats on a first-come, first-served basis. A“Non-Sumter County residents” is defined as:
- all Alabama residents that reside in any county other than Sumter County OR
- Mississippi residents that meet one of the following criteria:
- legal guardian is employed in Sumter County OR
- residence is located within 15 miles of the Sumter County line
Where will UCS be located?
Temporarily, UCS will be located in a portion of UWA’s Lyon Hall, which hosts the UWA College of Education. The building will be modified to ensure safety and minimal interaction with those not affiliated with UCS. This recently renovated and state-of-the-art facility will give UCS a first-class learning environment with the convenience of being located in the heart of Livingston, Alabama. As the school grows to meet to needs of the community and region, UCS will explore new construction opportunities to house all or some of the UCS operations.
Why has the proposed first-year grade structure expanded from PK-5th grade to PK-8th grade?
At UCS, our goal is to provide an educational option to as many of our regions’ children as practically possible. Based on our recently conducted interest surveys, the practical grade structure based on enrollment interest was PK-8th grade. We had originally planned on a PK-5th grade structure, but saw an opportunity based on survey results to expand our grade structure to provide an educational option to more children of this region.