Local charter public school gets state OK


Set to open next year despite opposition from Fayette School System

An initiative by a group of Fayette County parents has paid off. The Liberty Tech Charter School has been approved by the Georgia Charter School Commission and will open its doors in 2016 in south Fayette County.

That comes after the Fayette County Board of Education opposed it last year. The new school will be public but not under the control of the school board or the Fayette School System. It will receive state funding but not local property taxes. In essence, with no tuition, the new school will get about half what the government-operated schools receive per pupil. Any additional money will have to come from other sources, including fund-raisers and donations.

The sting for the Fayette School System is that it loses state funding for every Fayette student that switches to Liberty Tech.

Liberty Tech representative Christi McCully said the new public charter school was approved on Aug. 14 and will open in the 2016-2017 school year for grades 3-8. McCully said the school has approximately 500 students from several area counties wanting to attend the school, with most of those living in Fayette County. The school in its first year of operation will have an enrollment of less than 300 students.

“Common sense dictates that most students thrive in smaller environments where they are more likely to get one-on-one attention and are less likely to fall through the cracks. For that reason, Liberty Tech will start with only two classes per grade, but will never grow larger than three,” McCully said. “The charter school’s inaugural year will include 282 children in grades 3-8, year two will include 442 students in grades K-9, with the school adding one grade per year until it reaches grades K-12 capacity of 632 students. Several informational sessions will be held this fall throughout the South Atlanta region to explain the school and answer any questions. Registration will be open from Dec. 15 to Feb. 15.”

McCully said a lottery will be held if more students apply than space allows.

So what makes Liberty Tech different? The most obvious is the educational model and the length of the school year.

“The charter school governing board believes that as columns support the roof of a structure, so too does the educational model of Liberty Tech require three columns to be in place in order for true learning to occur,” McCully said.

Those include:

1) Virtue supported by Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues and a year-long, K-12 etiquette program from the American School of Protocol

2) Daily physical exercise and daily recess

3) Collaborative learning where students learn to work in teams to solve hands-on, real-world problems

“The educational model is a merger between Classical Education, which teaches students how to think, not what to think, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) which equips student for the future,” said McCully.

McCully said the model is placed on a 210-day school year to promote mastery and provide the time for students to investigate a wide variety of topics to help them determine a career path.

“At Liberty Tech, theory is blended with hands-on learning thanks to the investment of many community partners,” said McCully. “Many partners have signed on to provide professional development for teachers making it possible for Liberty Tech to offer exciting courses that integrate numerous subjects.”

Citing examples of that partnership, McCully said Falcon Aviation will teach a ground flight certification course that is necessary to become a pilot. Not only will students achieve certification, they will also learn meteorology, physics, geometry, and engineering, she said.

The Centers for Disease Control is offering their Disease Detectives course for students to apply lessons learned in biology, anatomy and geography while being exposed to public health.

The Amateur Radio Association is teaching a wireless technology course and has offered a grant to provide an amateur station equipment and software which facilitates physical science, engineering and physics.

In addition, dozens of local subject experts have signed on as mentors for projects to advise students, giving real feedback and exposing them to professional career paths to influence future professional choices, McCully said.

Liberty Tech initially approached the Fayette County Board of Education about joining the school system. The school board in July 2014 voted 4-1 to follow the recommendation of Superintendent Jody Barrow to deny the application.

McCully and other Liberty Tech parents were not fazed by the denial and made good on their word to go before the charter school commission again this year.

As for the location, McCully said the school is currently negotiating with two facilities, both of which are in south Fayette County.

For more information visit the school website at www.libertytechcharter.org.