City of Hephzibah looking to form charter school

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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's all about options. That's what those in Hephzibah are saying about their effort to start a charter school.

It all started with the election in November and the charter school amendment. The amendment gave control of charter schools to the state, taking it away from the local board of education. If this charter school in Hephzibah goes forward, it'll be the first local test since the amendment was approved.

"Where's the options to get a better education for your kids?" asked Deanna Jones, a mother of three who lives in Hephzibah. "Hephzibah is growing. I think it has the possibility of growing and growing in the right direction, but it does need help with schools."

So for now, she and a neighbor, Susan Rogers, both keep their kids at home during the day. Rogers homeschools her children and Jones' children attend an online charter school.

"I don't like the environment," Jones said. "I don't like the environment nowadays in public schools."

"I think it would be a good thing for Hephzibah to have a high-caliber school such as a charter school," Rogers said.

That's exactly what the city of Hephzibah is looking to start.

"When the constitutional amendment came about, I guess that's what brought it to a lot of people's attention that, hey there's a choice out here. We can do a charter school," said City Commission Chairman Robert Buchwitz.

Right now, it's in the beginning stages of surveys and community meetings to gauge interest. Around 70 people showed up at a recent forum to find out more.

"For the most part, most everybody there was very in favor and they had a lot of questions," Buchwitz said. "It's new to everybody."

Buchwitz says a charter school would have its own board, giving more local control.

"One size doesn't always fit all and when you've got more local control and more eyes paying attention, it's just like a smaller classroom size," Buchwitz said.

That's something Jones says is extremely important.

"Not all the kids are the same," Jones said. "They're not, but schools don't have that flexibility. Charter schools, they work under a different umbrella to offer another choice."

City leaders say there are 4,000 people in the Hephzibah city limits and around 1,100 school-aged children. They say a good school would also draw more people to the area, helping the city grow.

They are looking for input from surveys and community meetings. They will set up another meeting in the next two weeks and with the right support, the plan is to have this open in fall 2014.

If you live in Hephzibah and want to take the survey, click here.

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