The Treasure Coast Clas­sical Academy, which has been working with the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative, plans to open for the 2019 – 2020 school year. Alex Nester | Col­legian

FLORIDA — In 2018, the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Ini­tiative reached an enrollment mile­stone, with more than 10,000 stu­dents attending 21 schools across the country.

The Treasure Coast Clas­sical Academy in Stuart, Florida, is one of four Barney Charter Schools pro­jected to open for the upcoming 2019 – 2020 school year. According to Phil Kilgore, director of the Barney Charter Schools Ini­tiative, three other schools — Northwest Clas­sical Academy in Toledo, Ohio, Treasure Valley Clas­sical Academy in Fruitland, Idaho, and Tal­la­hassee Clas­sical Academy in Florida — will open alongside TCCA later this year.  

Typ­i­cally, charter schools require any­where from one to four years of planning before opening their doors for stu­dents, depending on state require­ments, finding loca­tions for the school, and acquiring proper funding.

According to Kilgore, state laws across the Midwest create chal­lenges for prospective charter schools, so the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative has better luck in states like Florida, Texas, and Col­orado, where laws and reg­u­la­tions are more friendly to charter schools.

Lynda Daniel, chairman of TCCA’s gov­erning board, said she appre­ciated the support the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative pro­vides to charter schools as well as the mission. According to the Hillsdale College website, the initiative’s mission is “excel­lence in knowledge of the world, high moral char­acter and self gov­ernment, and civic virtue.”

“Once they work with a team to open a school, they agree to provide training and cur­riculum,” Daniel said. “From BCSI to the local team, every­thing is mission-focused and very inten­tional; Hillsdale’s mission informs all deci­sions.”

The Barney Charter School Ini­tiative pro­vides assis­tance with prin­cipal training and selection as well as training for edu­cators at no cost to the prospective charter school.

TCCA announced Monday that Janine Swearingin had been selected as prin­cipal. Swearingin received her Master of Edu­cation from National Uni­versity and has worked in edu­cation for more than 20 years.

The school is pro­jected to enroll 650 stu­dents in kinder­garten through sixth grade this fall through the lottery process. TCCA will add an addi­tional grade each year through the 12th grade in 2025.

John Snyder, a member of the lead­ership team for TCCA who focuses on com­munity engagement, said he and Daniel are excited to bring another edu­ca­tional option to parents and children in Martin County.

“Martin County has the highest private school enrollment of the 67 counties in the state of Florida, and what that tells us is that, as great as the public schools are, parents are looking for another alter­native,” Snyder said. “We can bring this amazing offering here and fill that void.”

According to Snyder, three groups have been integral in the estab­lishment of TCCA: Hillsdale College, the Optima Foun­dation, and the TCCA Lead­ership Team and Gov­erning Board. Hillsdale has helped provide the charter school framework and cur­riculum, and the Optima Foun­dation has, among other things, helped TCCA comply with state charter school reg­u­la­tions. The TCCA Lead­ership Team and Gov­erning Board work as a “grass­roots effort” to spread the word in the com­munity.

Snyder, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, likens the founding of TCCA to working on an air­plane.

“I worked on the C‑130. You see this one plane, but when you get up there, you see that one company made the pro­pellers, another company made the avionics,” Snyder said. “That’s how I feel that TCCA has come together, with subject matter experts in each of the fields.”

Per Florida law, 75 percent of the funding used per student in a public school will be granted to each student who attends TCCA. Snyder said this, along with tar­geted mar­keting, will help draw stu­dents to TCCA from across the socioe­co­nomic spectrum.

“We use tar­geted mar­keting to dis­ad­van­taged areas of our com­munity because again, that is part of the American dream — anyone who works hard and puts forward the effort can achieve greatness,” Snyder said. “Edu­cation knows no socioe­co­nomic status.”

Though state funding will provide most of the school’s income over time, dona­tions helped to get the project off the ground. Future dona­tions through naming oppor­tu­nities could provide teachers with better salaries and perhaps even a bussing system, which would further help stu­dents and fam­ilies on the lower end of the socioe­co­nomic spectrum, according to Snyder.

“It has been very rewarding to be a part of this,” Snyder said. “Even if it is just a fin­ger­print on some­thing that will be here long after I am gone, it is very hum­bling.”

If TCCA main­tains an A, B, or C rating from the state after five years, the charter will then be renewed for 20 years. Snyder said the charter school will encourage other local schools to provide better edu­cation to stu­dents in Martin County.

“After a couple of years, other school dis­tricts will take note, and we will be a very pos­itive force in the com­munity and in the school dis­trict,” Snyder said. “When people start to see that a TCCA fourth grader is dif­ferent from another fourth grader, they will look to the school dis­tricts, and parents will start to demand more.”

Snyder said the school is going above and beyond with security mea­sures, as it is one of the first school buildings to be built in the state of Florida since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Feb­ruary 2018. TCCA will have a direct line to the sheriff’s department, as well as other security mea­sures, in the case of an emer­gency.

While con­struction on the school building has not yet begun, Daniel said she is hopeful that the school will be built on time.

“We are on an expe­dited building schedule, and the crew of con­tractors we are working with know the zoning and codes for public schools as well as envi­ron­mental laws,” Daniel said. “We are on quite an aggressive schedule.”