Savannah Classical Academy to discontinue dual-learning model, faces transportation problem

Education

(Getty)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Friday, Savannah Classical Academy (SCA) announced the charter school will discontinue its dual-learning model and only offer in person learning for all students beginning Monday, Nov. 2. 

School officials say the decision was based on support of families opting for on campus learning, support from staff, and the toll of maintaining the dual -learning model.

The school claims the dual -learning model adversely affected the quality of instruction and student learning.

SCA says the school has remained free of any COVID-19 cases since opening over two months ago. 

The school says prevention measures will continue to be rigorously enforced and include daily symptom screening, social distancing, enhanced disinfecting and sanitation protocols, and many facility upgrades including air purification systems and germicidal UV-C entryway lighting.

According to officials, SCA already has approximately 70 percent of students on campus, a significant increase from 40 percent in August.

With the return Monday, SCA faces another challenge of student transportation.

Savannah Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) made the decision to begin charging charter schools for transportation services during the 2020-21 school year. 

According to SCCPSS, the District has offered transportation services to Charter Schools under a temporary service agreement.  Charter schools are free to enter into this temporary contract or they may choose to pursue other options with other providers.

The transportation fee included in the temporary agreement is based on labor cost only per bus service hour and a daily cleaning fee. 

SCA says the option to pay SCCPSS for transportation services is “cost prohibitive.”

SCCPPSS releaaed the following statement regarding SCA’s decision:

“We are aware that Savannah Classical Academy is operating on their own instructional schedule apart from other schools in the District.  As a locally approved Charter School, this is within their purview and a decision left to their own Governing Board.  In making operational decisions, the school must carefully consider all functional aspects for the delivery of instruction – transportation is a key component and the school should weigh all options to ensure they can provide services promised to their families.  The District is not obligated to provide transportation to Charter schools; however, Charters may seek to retain the District for pupil transportation.  This would come as an operational expense to the Charter School.  Charter Schools receive a proportionate share of funding for school operations to include monies for transportation. 

To ensure a clear understanding of this service option, the Board adopted a Transportation Cost Sharing Agreement for Charter Schools in December of 2019; however, due to the unforeseen and completely unavoidable impacts of the pandemic, we have not been able to operate the transportation department at full functionality – thus negating the opportunity to offer the cost sharing opportunity at this time. 

Everyone is operating under these unique and challenging times and we appreciate that Charter schools are no exception.  In an effort to support the needs of Charter students who are learning in person, the District has offered transportation services to Charter Schools, as our resources will allow, under a temporary service agreement.  Charter schools are free to enter into this temporary contract or they may choose to pursue other options with other providers. For those who seek District transportation, the agreement will be in place for an interim time due to the impact of COVID-19.

The transportation fee included in the temporary agreement is based on labor cost only per bus service hour and a daily cleaning fee.  The hourly labor cost is the published field trip rate of $34 per hour, plus the daily cleaning fee based on the pandemic.  This cost was reduced by two-thirds as a matter of good will.  We have sought to ensure no one confuses the temporary option with the Cost Sharing Process that was adopted in December 2019.  The District has been clear that transportation services in the current operational state of the pandemic could only be offered under a temporary agreement.   Charters who enter into the temporary contract will pay just one third of the actual cost of serving their students. 

We, like all others, are hopeful for a return to normal operations.  The District’s Transportation department is committed to ensuring safety protocols are in place to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.  This is having an impact on transportation functionality and bus capacity levels.  SCCPSS remains available and ready to offer pupil transportation services to Charter schools as they are requested and resources allow. “

“SCCPSS has historically provided transportation for all students in the district. Charter schools such as ours, are part of the district school system and we are disappointed that SCCPSS is not fulfilling its obligation to our students as they have in the past,” said SCA Executive Director Barry Lollis. 

“Sadly, some students will be unable to stay at SCA due to the recommendation of Superintendent Levett to impose this cost, which was approved by the SCCPSS Board Members elected to support all students in the district. As of today, I have not received a response from the District to my inquires related to transport details, costs, and the transportation funding SCA is entitled to according to the guidance provided by the Georgia Department of Education.”

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