By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - After more than two years, it took just a few signatures for St. Lucie County to officially have a charter high school on April 10.
The governing board of the College Preparatory Academy of the Treasure Coast finalized its negotiations with Florida Atlantic University and signed a lease on a building on the Florida Atlantic University campus in St. Lucie West, next to the Indian River State College campus.
"I am ecstatic," said Erika Rains, principal of the school, scheduled to open its doors this fall.
A charter school is a public school that uses state dollars, but can develop its own curriculum and policies.
CPATC intends to offer a fast-paced, rigorous course of study.
In addition, the board signed partnership agreements with Academica, a charter school service that provides academic and other support services, and Building Hope, a company that works with charter schools on financial issues.
The school's charter contract was approved by the school district last year, but waited a year to pull together funding and find a Port St. Lucie location.
The first year of the school will have just ninth-grade students enrolled, and next year will expand to accommodate 10th graders, with 11th and 12th grades coming in the following years.
"This is very gratifying that we're finally getting the wheels turning here," said Steven Stefano, one of the governing board members.
Other items the board approved on April 10 included the contractors for the redesign of the inside of the new building. Also discussed was bus transportation for the students, the hours of operation and recent academic hires.
The school has a few openings left for ninth-grade students interested in attending. While the focus is on a higher level of learning, Ms. Rains said that shouldn't stop students from applying.
"We want the kids who want to be there," she said. "It's about your desire to learn."
The school is also looking at dual-enrollment possibilities at the nearby college system, as well as possible affiliations with other charter schools.
But for now, everyone is happy to get started in St. Lucie West.
"I think it is Port St. Lucie's turn now," said board member Susan Minch. "It's our time."
Parents and students interested in learning more about the charter high school can call (772) 323-3747 or go online to www.prepacadtc.org.