August and back-to-school are fast approaching. Though registration for school started in February/March, it’s not necessarily too late to reconsider your choice for school options, especially if you’ve discovered that your child’s assigned public school is (how do we put this nicely) not the greatest. Private schools, homeschooling, charter schools, and school of choice within a public school district can all be good alternatives for your child’s education.
Last year, with the kindergarten year approaching for my daughter London, we realized the school she was zoned for was ranked pretty poorly on the GreatSchools.org website. Our option for school of choice within the district had passed, so we searched for an alternative and settled on the charter school East Point Academy, which has campuses in Cayce and West Columbia.
What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are FREE public schools that branch off from the traditional curriculum within the district to form a school that may focus on special criteria (such as Mandarin immersion or creating a micro-society) while staying within the state’s educational guidelines. Just like their traditional counterparts, these schools are still subject to state testing and scoring.
Charter schools join the state’s public charter school district, rather than the district where their building is located. Currently there are 24 schools in South Carolina’s charter school district. The district includes virtual and brick-and mortar-schools, covering grades K-12.
Factors to Consider in Your Decision
You should know that charter schools do not provide transportation, so that is one thing to keep in mind when making your choice. A few other things to consider are specific curriculum, test scores and the school’s annual report from the previous year. Remember, just because it’s a charter school doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any academically better than a traditional public school. It’s your job as the parent to do as much investigating as possible into the school you choose for you child.
Other Charter Schools Available
Two other charter schools in the Midlands are:
And there are several virtual charter schools that serve the entire state:
- Cyber Academy of South Carolina, K-9th
- Palmetto State e-Cademy, 9-12th
- Provost Academy South Carolina, 9-12th
- South Carolina Calvert Academy, K-8th
- South Carolina Connections Academy, K-12th
- South Carolina Virtual Charter School, K-12th
- South Carolina Whitmore School, 9-12th
While I can’t speak to the experience you will have at all charter schools, I can, however, speak about our experience with East Point Academy.
East Point Academy is South Carolina’s first Chinese immersion elementary school, and it’s supported by USC’s Confucius Institute. Currently, the school has 400 students in 3K-4th grade; it will continue to add another grade each year up until 8th grade.
One of the biggest reasons we choose East Point, aside from the glowing reviews and excellent school rating, was that our daughter would be learning Mandarin through the school’s immersion program. And this wouldn’t be happening in middle school or high school, when it’s harder to retain language, but beginning in kindergarten (3K if you choose)!
A Typical Day
While the school of course focuses on all subjects just like any other school they also weave Mandarin into the entire day.
London had two hours of Mandarin each morning with her fluent Mandarin-speaking teachers. They speak ONLY Mandarin in the classroom with their students at all times. The children have learned to ask for paper, pencils, and even a bathroom break all in Mandarin! All of this learning is accomplished through songs, encouragement and constant repetition. London has learned numbers (and the characters for writing them), math, feelings, food, careers, and so much more in Mandarin. She is learning the fundamentals of the language; these will develop more as she goes on to each grade, in the same way infants begin to learn the small but important details of a language!
The rest of London’s day is spent just like any other student’s day in elementary school … lunch, recess, P.E., language arts, science and more. The school also has a diverse choice of after-school activities such as tennis, gymnastics, guitar lessons, and origami/calligraphy club. As London has now completed her kindergarten year, I couldn’t be more pleased with how this year has gone for her, and we are looking forward to 1st grade.
Until next time, Zàijiàn! (Bye!)