Legacy Charter awarded grant to study preschool program (Greenville Online)

By Paul Hyde, phyde@greenvillenews.com

Legacy Charter School has been awarded a $381,815 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to explore the feasibility of adding preschool classes in a high-poverty area of Greenville.

The school will partner with the Institute for Child Success to assess the needs of the community, set goals for a preschool program and define the potential public value of such classes.

“We’re very fortunate to be included in this,” said William Brown, founder and board chair of Legacy Charter School.

Brown said the study will ask, “What difference would it make if we had education for 3- and 4-year-olds in west Greenville and other areas like west Greenville?”

The hope is that, after the study, Legacy would be able to add classes for 3- and 4-year-olds in the next few years.

Currently, 1,320 students attend Legacy Charter School in kindergarten through grade 12.

“We start classes with 5-year-olds but we really should be starting with 3-year-olds,” Brown said. “That’s the direction we’re trying to move in. If a child grows up in poverty but is well-educated, what impact does that have on the community? Well, it has an obvious positive impact.”

The grant is part of the federal government’s innovative Pay for Success program. The government partners with philanthropic and private sector investors to provide upfront money for schools. Through Pay for Success, the government agrees to pay for concrete, measurable outcomes, but taxpayer money is spent only if those outcomes are achieved.

“If results aren’t achieved, investors don’t get their money back,” Brown said.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. on Thursday announced the awarding of $3 million in Pay for Success preschool grants for eight recipients throughout the nation, including $318,815 for Legacy Charter School.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that attending high-quality preschool can help level the playing field for our most vulnerable children, we continue to have a huge unmet need in this country,” King said in a news release. “We’re pleased that these grantees will work in their communities to make the case for investing in early education and drive expansion of high-quality preschool.”

Charter schools like Legacy Charter are public schools but they’re operated by an independent board. They’re free from many regulations that govern traditional public schools — particularly in regard to hiring and curriculum.

“If we’ve got a child who is in the seventh grade, we can put him in high school math if that’s where he is academically,” Brown said.

Legacy Charter opened its doors in 2010 with 250 students and now numbers 1,320. The school is approaching its capacity of 1,430.

Legacy Charter emphasizes the health and wellness of students: Students take physical education classes every day.

The school also focuses on college readiness from the earliest grades and partners with Greenville Technical College and North Greenville University.

“Our mantra is that every scholar gets to and through college,” Brown said. “On the back of (elementary) students’ uniform shirt, it says ‘college bound.’ One of the great expectations in that process is that in the 11th and 12th grades, our scholars will be taking college classes.”

Brown added, “We just had three students accepted in the early admissions process this week to Furman University. That’s a huge Christmas present for us.”

Paul Hyde covers education and everything else under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.