Bill could open the door for a charter school at Burke High School

A bill filed in the state Senate could make it easier for Burke High School to be operated as a neighborhood charter school.

A York County senator has filed a bill that could make it easier for Burke High School to operate as a neighborhood charter school that primarily serves downtown Charleston students.

Sen. Robert Hayes, R-Rock Hill, filed bill S0702 on Wednesday that would amend state charter school laws to provide for enrollment preferences to “particular” charter schools. Hayes did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

Mary Carmichael, executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina, said her organization sought sponsorship of the legislation in response to interest from some downtown Charleston residents in transitioning Burke to a charter school that would be geared toward serving peninsula students.

“If they decided to become a charter school this would allow (the school) to have neighborhood preference,” Carmichael said.

That means that while students from other parts of Charleston County could attend the school, no students living downtown would ever be turned away, Carmichael said. Any plans to turn Burke into a charter school would have to be approved by the Charleston County School Board.

The legislation does not name Burke specifically and could be applied to any charter school in the state. A companion bill seeking similar amendments is expected to be filed in the House of Representatives next week.