New charter school coming to Brooksville

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Hernando County School Board approved Tuesday the creation of an experiential-based learning charter school in Brooksville, which is expected to become operational in August for the 2013-14 school year.

Brooksville Engineering, Science and Technology Academy, or B.E.S.T. Academy, located at 835 School St. in Brooksville, was approved a five-year term contract to offer five hands-on, one-hour classes per day in mathematics, reading, science, social studies, and engineering and technology.

The school’s focus is on an integrated science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based curriculum, or STEM curriculum, as well as hands-on learning with an emphasis in student participation.

“It’s an innovative, hands-on learning approach founded in research based in STEM philosophy, and that’s basically you have those fields that provide creative and innovative ways for students to problem solve, and apply what they learn,” said Charter Schools Curriculum Supervisor Jeff Yungmann. “We capitalize on inquiry-based learning, where teachers pose a question, and students lead through investigation.”

The charter school is sponsored by Hernando County Public Schools and does not require tuition costs, and the majority of students will be drawn from a lottery with annual waiting lists.

However, there is special consideration given to siblings of enrolled students, as well as children of the academy’s roughly half-dozen expected teachers.

B.E.S.T. Academy was ranked among the top 10 best grant proposals in the state, Yungmann said, noting that for the last few years, Department of Education has placed emphasis on engineering, science and technology curriculums.

“They just submitted a grant called the Public Charter School Grant Program, and this allows them to have $175,000 in funding for their start-up year,” Yungmann said. “That’s based on their projected enrollment, and this would be phase one of the grant allowing them to purchase office supply equipment, and desks, and curriculum and instructional materials.”

“That’s the definition of charter,” Yungmann said. “Attempting to do something different than what’s provided in the public school system involving field experience.”

Yungmann said 88 students will attend the first school year — 44 in students for both sixth and seventh grades — and the following year an eighth grade class will be added, bringing the total student count to 132.

Yungmann said the academy expects to maintain that number of students thereafter.

Enrollment will be done through a web-based application process, and public transportation will be available for students in the D.S. Parrot Middle School zone. B.E.S.T. Academy students within that zone can ride buses to Parrot Middle, then take a shuttle to B.E.S.T. Academy.

“We receive funding for those students to get transferred over,” Yungmann said.

However, students who live on the east and west side of the county will require personal transportation to and from the school, Yungmann said.

Some interdisciplinary engineering activities offered at B.E.S.T. Academy include Electronics, Aviation, Rocketry, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Force and Motion, Alternative Energy and Optics and Robotics.

Teams of 22 students will travel together between six classes taught by Florida-certified teachers throughout the school day. Andre Buford was awarded the position of B.E.S.T Academy administrator March 11.

B.E.S.T. Academy will also offer the following: All subjects adhering to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards;

Algebra 1 for High School credit;

Experiential-based learning that includes water quality testing, helium balloon density and buoyancy testing, mock trial, and digital video production;

After school day activities until 5 p.m. like Pet Club and Art Club;

Solar Spring Car Races, Model Rocket Launches, Archaeology Digs;

Physical Education through field trip experiences like kayaking, flag football, golf, archery, martial arts, cave exploration, snorkeling, high and low ropes courses, fishing, and tennis;

Sports at zoned school with complimentary shuttle bus to D.S. Parrott Middle School.