The founders of a charter school with a focus on energy and environmental science plan to open new locations in the Charleston and Spartanburg areas in the fall of 2019.
GREEN Charter School's two new locations will each serve up to 280 students in kindergarten through sixth grade in the first school year, eventually expanding to serve grades K-12.
Applications for a lottery-based selection process will be available in the spring of 2019.
GREEN Charter School's name is an acronym for Greenville Renewable Energy Education, but New Schools Coordinator Jodi Isaacs said the school teaches students to weigh the pros and cons of both "renewable and nonrenewable energy."
The school uses a curriculum written by the National Energy Education Development Project, whose sponsors and partners include major petroleum and utility companies like BP America, Citgo, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy.
The charter school opened its original location in Greenville in 2013 and became the first charter school in the state to replicate its model when it opened a Midlands location in Irmo in 2017. The school's charter board recently earned approval from the S.C. Public Charter School District to replicate its model at the two new locations.
The school has not selected a site in the Charleston area but will focus its search on Dorchester County before looking at Berkeley and Charleston counties, Isaacs said.
The Greenville school enrolled 663 students in the 2016-17 school year and exceeded state averages on standardized tests in science, social studies, English and math, according to state report card data.
School leaders have cited parental involvement as one key to their success. Since it is part of the state charter district and does not have a set attendance zone, parents have to seek out the school to enroll their children. They must also provide their own transportation.
In third grade, students learn about coal mining through a hands-on project that involves "mining" chocolate chips from cookies.
In sixth and eighth grade, students learn about climate change during lessons on the greenhouse effect, according to Isaacs. A NEED curriculum booklet titled "Exploring Climate Change" states, "Most scientists believe that the way humans are interacting with the Earth in their everyday lives is causing a faster than natural climate change.”
"It's not a matter of telling the kids we should all go solar, or if you live in an area that’s windy have a windmill in the backyard — it's more or less giving them the information that we have and then letting them draw their own conclusions about what is effective, what is realistic," Isaacs said.
Charter schools, which receive public funding and are governed by their own charter boards, have grown in popularity in the Charleston area. There are currently 14 charter schools in Charleston County. The first charter school in Berkeley County, Mevers School of Excellence, opened in 2017. If the school selects a site in Dorchester County, it will be the first charter school in that county.