Jefferson County School Board Approves Charter School Contract

Jefferson County School Board Approves Charter School Contract
Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 18:15:53-04

MONTICELLO, Fla. (WTXL) - Jefferson County will officially be the first charter school district in Florida and will be run by the charter school group Somerset Academy.

That's after an agreement with Somerset Academy was approved by the school board tonight. The move to become three separate charter schools was the best way to keep the struggling district from shutting down completely.

In a series of unanimous votes, the Jefferson County school board approved a five-year contract with Somerset Academy. That means the district will be run by Somerset beginning with the new fiscal year, July 1st.

All 750 or so students from the middle/high school, which is already a consolidated school, and the elementary school will now go to the current middle/high school building. Somerset officials say there will be two separate drop-off times for the younger and older students.

Somerset Academy Charter School was founded in 1997 and runs K-12 educational programs in Florida, Nevada and Texas. Both parents and officials think the change will be a positive one.

"It's been a systemic problem for many years here in the county and I think the charter is the jolt that we needed to help us get out of the rut," said Marianne Arbulu, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent.

"I think that as long as what's needed in terms of resources for the students and as well as for the teachers, I think that we can look forward to a successful year," said parent Robert Walker.

For students, this means anyone has the choice of whether or not they want to attend Jefferson. Arbulu says, as it stands, the new school will have about 945 total seats, giving the district some room to grow.

For teachers and many other school staffers, this will mean a pay increase.

Despite the name change, Somerset Academy is contractually obligated to keep Jefferson's current mascot and school colors.