Two charter schools set to open in Clinton this fall have been granted full authorization by the Erskine Charter Institute board.
Erskine College created the Institute in 2017 as a statewide agency that would sponsor charter schools, a power granted by South Carolina law to institutes of higher education.
The schools are Summit Classical School and Thornwell Charter School.
Representatives from Summit, Thornwell and the Institute said the schools were on track to meet the pre-opening conditions the board set when it granted them provisional authorization.
Rob Gustafson, board chairman, asked whether Clinton has the capacity to accept two more schools.
Vamshi Rudrapati, director of the Charter Institute, said full enrollment is one of the pre-opening conditions and that the schools have proven demand does exist in Clinton.
“That has not been a question on our end,” he said. “We have seen a huge interest … not only coming from Clinton, but coming from surrounding places.”
The schools have seen so much interest, according to their representatives, that both asked the board permission to add another grade level.
Summit, which was set to open as a K-2 primary school, asked to add third grade. Its enrollment goal is 100 students; it currently has 42.
Rudrapati said granting full authorization does not change the schools’ being bound by pre-opening conditions.
“If they don’t reach the enrollment we will bring them back to the board,” he said. “And you decide if they need to move forward opening the school or not.”
Trustee Beth Gustafson asked whether there is any reason to consider granting full approval before they have a better idea of whether pre-opening conditions will be met.
Rudrapati said having full approval will make it easier for the schools to sign contracts and leases, and hire teachers.
“You don’t want the public to say in meetings. You’re not fully approved, it means you’re not doing something right,’” Rudrapati said.
Norman Dover, vice president for educational services at Thornwell, said the school had received twice as many applications as it had space for. In order to select which applicants were accepted, the school had to implement a lottery, he said.
Thornwell’s enrollment goal is 120 students.
“All of our enrollment forms were returned with the exception of 29 students,” Dover said. “We then have reached out to the waitlist and filled those 29 slots. We are fully enrolled with 120 students.”
Thornwell requested — and was granted, after a unanimous vote by the board — permission to add a sixth grade.
Two other schools set to open in the fall of 2019 — Clear Dot Charter School, of Columbia, and Legion Collegiate Academy, in York County — have already received full approval.
In other news, Erskine’s enrollment increased 5 percent overall despite a 1 to 6 percent drop in enrollment among its brick-and-mortar schools.
Rudrapati described the increase in enrollment at the Institute’s three virtual schools as “dramatic.”