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Former private school to reopen this summer as Hillsborough's newest charter

CARROLLWOOD — A little over a year after closing its doors, a former private school in Carrollwood will reopen this summer as a charter school.

The Hillsborough County School Board gave final approval for the A.T. Jones Math, Science and Technology Academy last week. The school is named after the Rev. Arthur T. Jones, pastor of Bible-Based Fellowship Church.

In February 2009, the Bible-Based Fellowship Christian Academy closed amid dwindling enrollment and financial trouble. In the year since, school officials revamped the curriculum, removed religious components and applied for a state charter.

Jenna Hodgens, the district's supervisor of charter schools, said the new school's innovation was an attractive element.

"It had an emphasis on math, science and technology and (academy officials) were looking at doing some things a little different, like including chess and a character education program," Hodgens said. "So those things were a plus, on top of just meeting state requirements."

The school is projected to have about 322 students when it opens on Aug. 24. Charter schools are paid through the state based on enrollment, which means A.T. Jones Academy would have a budget of about $2 million. So far, the school, which will include grades K-5, has about 100 students enrolled, said Jones, a board member for the school.

It will be housed in the former Christian academy building, at 4903 Ehrlich Road on the same campus as Bible-Based Fellowship Church, but won't be affiliated with the church.

"Our curriculum does not include teaching about Christianity," Jones said. "But we will teach character and how to treat and respect one another."

Charter schools are publicly funded and run by educators, businesses, community groups or nonprofits. Many have more rigourous academic standards and are allowed to exercise flexibility when it comes to some districtwide rules, including focusing on specific subjects.

Math, science and technology will be interwoven into the core curriculum subjects at A.T. Jones Academy. Jones said he hopes the school will help students get the cutting edge needed in the working world.

"If our young people are going to compete and win, they have to be able to compete and win on a global scale," Jones said. "Their competition is in Brazil, Russia and China."

The A.T. Jones Academy and Kid's Community College Middle School, a charter school in Riverview, were both approved at the School Board meeting on April 20. Currently there are 27 charter schools in the district.

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

fast facts

Summer opening

For more information about A.T. Jones Math, Science and Technology Academy, call (813) 264-2222.

Former private school to reopen this summer as Hillsborough's newest charter 04/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 3:05pm]
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