Santa Fe College plans to open a new charter school in Alachua County

Santa Fe College may soon have a new charter school for high school students by the start of the 2023 school year.

The charter school, Santa Fe College Academy of Science and Technology, is expected to be funded by the Building Florida’s Future program under Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration.

School officials say they plan to open by August 2023 at 3000 NW 83rd St. in Gainesville, on the main campus of SF College. Applications to attend the school will go out in January 2023 and close in early March.

“The effort to establish a charter school is one of our priorities as an institution,” university president Paul Broadie said at an Alachua County School Board workshop on 13 July. “Our mission is to add value to the lives of others and impact our community. We see this as creating a collaboration with the school district, creating an opportunity for young people to enter into high-demand labor fields in health sciences and IT.”

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The school is built on a P-tech model – a learning model that connects high school students with college courses and careers – which gives students who enter the charter school the chance to earn a high school diploma. Associate in Health Sciences and Information and Technology Pathways.

Details about the charter school were presented to members of the Alachua County School Board by Jen Lobster, director of the dual enrollment program at SF College.

She said the school will start with 75 students but is expected to grow each year. By the second year, the planned enrollment should be approximately 145 students.

If by chance the number of candidates exceeds the number of places available, the participants will be drawn by lot.

The school contract will run for five years ending June 30, 2027. Under Florida law, a charter school must enter into a contractual agreement with the school board of a public school system, and funding will be channeled through the through the public school district.

Lobster assured the school board that the charter would operate under tight security and that no students could enter the building and mingle with high school students.

Students would still be allowed to participate in extracurricular extracurricular activities for their zone school, Lobster added.

Lobster also said all students at the school will receive a bus pass that will allow them to travel across the county, ensuring students have reliable transportation to schools.

School board member Tina Certain expressed concern that Santa Fe’s Charter Health and Vocational Science program would pull students from the Health Professional Academy’s magnet program.

“It doesn’t diminish my love for Santa Fe, it’s a crown jewel in our community,” Certain said. “It just seems like we’re competing and I’m afraid the health science curriculum, we’re doing very well in our magnet AHP (Academy of Health Professionals) at Gainesville High School. I’m afraid they can’t impact enrollment in this program.”

Lobster, however, assured that the program was not designed to compete with magnet schools. The goal of the program is to ensure that students graduate and enter career fields where they can earn $60,000 in salaries.

The state is expected to invest $89 million in workforce programs, including $10 million in vocational and technical training programs. The SF College charter school would receive approximately $2 million in funding to get started.

The school board plans to vote to approve the charter school at its meeting on Tuesday.

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