By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- On Jan. 8, the College Prep Academy of the Treasure Coast and the Renaissance Charter School teamed up to educate parents on what charter schools are all about and what programs they offer.
This was the first time in the county that area charter schools worked together on this type of program.
Rachel Windler-Freitag, principal of Renaissance Charter School, a K-8 in Port St. Lucie, was thrilled with the turnout.
"What better way to educate the community," she said. "It's all about making the best choice for your child."
Erika Rains, principal of the College Preparatory Academy of the Treasure Coast, a charter school serving students in ninth grade, agreed.
"We would like to make this an annual event," Ms. Raines said. "Scheduling conflicts kept the other schools from participating this time, but we look forward to seeing them next year."
The schools are two of four charter schools currently in St. Lucie County. Although located in the Port St. Lucie area, the charter schools are open to students from all over the county.
The other schools are NAU Charter School, a K-8 school and Palm Pointe Educational Research School, a K-8 school run by Florida Atlantic University and the school district.
The Renaissance Charter School is currently listed as an "A" school in the county, and its education program is accredited through Charter Schools USA. The College Preparatory Academy of the Treasure Coast is in its first year, so its does not have a grade yet, but it uses the Somerset curriculum.
The evening started with performances from both the Renaissance Glee Club and the Spartan Nation Step Team from CPATC.
Charter schools are tuition-free, not-for-profit public schools. The schools receive funding from the Florida Education Finance Program to operate, but they don't receive any compensation from local taxes.
As a result, charter schools operate on approximately 80 percent of a regular public school's budget. To make up the difference, charter schools rely on funding from grants and donations.
"We have to adhere to the state mandates, so we rely on parent and business support," said Ms. Raines. "I have the most awesome parents ever. They have been such big helps this year. They are amazing."
Another thing that differentiates charter schools from traditional public schools is the way the curriculum is taught.
"While we are required to meet state standards, we have the ability to vary the curriculum to individual students' needs," said Ms. Windler-Freitag. "This allows students to learn at their own speed."
The charter schools also offer a variety of extracurricular activities and afterschool programs similar to those of public schools.
Tables were set up in the back of the room for parents to pick up more information and ask questions.
"These look like good options for my family," said Melissa Glassier, who attended the event with her two children.
"My friend had her children in a charter school here and suggested I come tonight to hear more about it."
But while the charter schools offer similar educational opportunities as traditional public schools, the deadlines to apply are different. Those interested in applying to a charter have until Feb. 1 to turn in an application.
College Preparatory Academy of the Treasure Coast is located at 501 N.W. University Place in Port St. Lucie. For more information, call (772) 343-7028 or go online to www.cpatc.org.
Renaissance Charter School is located at 300 N.W. Cashmere Blvd. in Port St. Lucie. For more information, call (772) 344-5982 or go online to www.stluciecharter.org.