Hollywood — Construction on a new charter school’s building won’t be finished by its opening day next week, and school officials are scrambling to find a temporary home for more than 400 students.
Lowcountry Leadership Charter School is slated to open Sept. 5 for students in grades K-9, and school leader Mache Larkin said they still plan to start that day. The question is where the school will be.
“All of our struggles will become part of the story we tell in years to come about the first year of LLCS,” wrote Larkin in a note on the school’s website. “We have all worked so hard over the past two years to see this dream become a reality. ... We will survive this hurdle and we will have a huge celebration.”
The school’s permanent home is on the campus previously occupied by St. Paul’s Academy, a private school that closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year. The charter school is building an addition for its middle and high school students, and it did major renovations to the gym and an existing classroom building.
Rainy weather delayed construction on those projects and forced the school to postpone its opening date until Sept. 5. School leaders learned late last week that construction won’t be finished until at least Sept. 30.
The school has asked the Charleston County School Board to temporarily lease the former Schroder Middle School building a few miles away. The campus has more than enough space for the school, and teachers toured the site Monday, Larkin said.
Mike Bobby, the district’s chief finance and operations officer, said the charter school picked that building without any knowledge of what it would take to ready the space, and district staff were working “full speed” on what the board would need to know to make a decision.
The state Office of School Facilities has to sign off on the buildings used by public schools, and the Schroder campus already has that go-ahead.
Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said she would expect a majority of the board to support a temporary lease, but the issue could be how much it costs to make the building ready, and whether the temporary use affects other district programmatic needs or priorities.
“If we can help them, we are more than willing,” she said.
If Schroder doesn’t work out, the charter school has an offer to use the building at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church or the state Produce Association building in Meggett.
Facilities often are make or break issues for charter schools, which don’t receive specific dollars for buildings.
“It has been an unusual situation,” Larkin said. “We can deal with it, and it’s going to be OK.”
Lowcountry Leadership Charter is part of the state Public Charter School District, which means it doesn’t receive any local money and can accept any South Carolina student, regardless of where they live. It’s the only new charter school opening in the tri-county area this fall, and its goal is to develop leaders through project-based learning, which is when students learn their lessons through assigned projects.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.