Frequently Asked Questions
What is Polaris Tech Charter School?
Polaris Tech is a state-approved charter school to serve middle and high school students from Jasper County and the Lowcountry. It is a free school (no tuition), focused on preparing young people for successful work and college. Our academic emphasis will be on six career areas: aerospace, health science, information technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, and business management. The core academic program meets the requirements of the Profile of a South Carolina Graduate.
Where will the school be located?
The school will be located in Ridgeland across from the airport on the site of the old hospital. The site is centrally located for Jasper residents. The facility will have plenty of space to house our hands-on, project-based, and career-focused approach to teaching and learning. Visit the facility page to learn more.
What is a state charter school?
In South Carolina, charter schools are authorized by the S.C. Public Charter School District, a university, or by the local school board. Charter schools are autonomous, offer innovative academic programs, and are governed by a Board of Directors. This autonomy comes with accountability by the authorizer for fiscal management and meeting student growth and achievement goals. Polaris Tech was authorized by the S. C. Public Charter School District in Spring 2017.
How is a state charter school funded?
Funding is provided by the state and is determined by the Education Finance Act and Charter School Funding legislation. The projected allocation for each student in the 2019-2020 school year is about $6,087. This doesn’t include funding from other sources, such as grants and donations. If you wish to donate to the school, visit the website’s donate page.
How is Polaris Tech governed?
Polaris Tech is governed by a Board of Directors. The Directors are made up of interested and involved parents, business people, and community members from across Jasper and Beaufort counties. They are responsible for hiring an Executive Director for the school, oversight of the financial matters, ensuring Polaris Tech meets local, state, and federal requirements, and working with the S.C. Public Charter School District.
Who can attend?
Polaris Tech is open to ALL middle and high school students in Jasper County and from the surrounding areas. Beginning in August 2018, Polaris Tech will enroll 230 students in grades 6-10 and grow to grade 11 in August 2019 and grade 12 in August 2020.
What makes Polaris Tech different from other schools?
Students will acquire core academic knowledge, relevant competencies, and industry-specific certifications that are aligned with the requirements in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate and all state standards. Self-paced adaptive online courses, hands-on projects, and flexible schedules will be designed to meet the unique needs of each student.
To prepare middle and high school students for college and to capitalize on Jasper County’s projected market and industry growth, the course of study will include the following:
Core Content - Math, Reading, Writing, Languages, Science & Global Studies
Six Career Pathways (listed below )
21st Century Career and Life Skills
Health and Wellness Curriculum
The centerpiece of Polaris Tech’s curriculum is the introduction of six 21 st Century Career Pathways based on regional and state industry trends and analysis. The Career Pathways will include aerospace, health science, information technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, and business management.
Each Career Pathway will have a prescribed course of study to offer graduates the greatest opportunity for employment and higher education. Students will have the opportunity to earn completer endorsements, certificates, dual credit, and badges – the hallmark of competency among private sector partners.
Is there tuition or does it cost anything to attend?
As a state charter school, Polaris Tech is a public school and free to residents of South Carolina. No tuition is charged. As with any school, there will be costs such as school supplies, etc., but we work closely with community partners to ensure that all children have access to the necessary tools and supplies to succeed.
When can I enroll my child?
Now! Applications are being accepted until the end of March 2018 for the school year beginning August 2018. Interested families may now apply on the Polaris Tech Admissions page. The easiest way to stay connected is to follow us on Facebook (Polaris Tech Charter School) or to regularly check our website (www.polaristech.org). We also share information through local churches, community groups, and small group meetings.
What’s the best way to stay in touch as the school progresses toward Opening Day?
Like us on Facebook (Polaris Tech Charter School), check our website ( www.polaristech.org ), and check local news media. We’ll be making a strong effort to connect to as many families as possible about the exciting opportunities at Polaris Tech!
What about instructional staffing?
There will be an on-average ratio of 20 to 1 students to instructional staff. Seventy-five percent of the instructors must be South Carolina certified in their content area and/or grade level.
What relationships will Polaris Tech have with other schools?
Polaris Tech’s founders believe it is important to establish and maintain open and transparent communications with all Jasper County educational organizations. We will continue to pursue partners to improve the quality of education and to provide our students with the opportunity to link with students in neighboring schools to participate in community and career-based projects.
Will transportation be provided?
The state doesn’t provide transportation dollars to Polaris Tech or other charter schools. Because of that, we don’t currently plan to provide transportation.
Will there be extra-curricular activities?
All students at Polaris Tech Charter School have the option of participating in athletics offered through the Jasper County School District. In addition, Polaris Tech students will be encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities, from sports, to dance to clubs dedicated to various pursuits. Opportunities to pursue these interests will be available through Polaris Tech’s after-school and Flexible Friday programs.
How many students will be in each classroom?
Classroom sizes vary depending on the work being done. Much of the Polaris Tech instructional day is technology-based, with students working alone, in small groups, or with teacher guides. When students are working on projects, they are also in large and small groups depending on the activities involved with each project.
How will they be grouped?
We strive for each class, also called a “flight,” to be as diverse as possible. We won’t separate high achievers from those needing more help. The idea is that self-paced online learning will enable all students to proceed and achieve. Students will work together in various groups depending on the projects and career interests selected.
What does a typical Polaris Tech day look like?
The typical day includes 7 - 8 hours of learning time, wellness, and social activities. The following provides a more detailed description of the typical daily activities:
Arrival and Wellness
Every student will arrive at the school in the morning and participate in physical activity, whether it be walking the track within the school, playing games with other students, or joining a yoga class. The idea is to get students together to begin their day feeling energized, connected, and ready to learn.
Core Academics – Personalized Learning
Once the “wellness” time is completed (about 30 minutes), the students will report to their core classroom and begin their online work in varying academic areas using the online tool Edgenuity MyPath™. Teachers and content coaches will be available to support each student’s progress online and offline – offering help when a student is struggling and challenging students to learn new skills as they move forward.
Students will then break up into groups to work on applying the knowledge learned online in various projects designed and created by the students. Teachers and content coaches will act as guides to support the projects, ensure students are using new skills and provide new challenges to support student development. The Career Pathways curriculum will include activities to support learning skills required for certifications, etc. The health and wellness curriculum will be woven into the projects and activities as appropriate. The applied learning experiences will take place in the Learning Labs, Huddle Rooms, or Demo Labs within the school and outside as appropriate to the project.
Lunch and Connections
The students will participate in lunch depending on their “flight’s” schedule. Students participating in the cooking program may also prepare their own lunches within the group. Students will have the flexibility to enjoy lunch and meet with others in the large multi-purpose room, common areas within the school, or outside in the patio and garden areas.
Core Academics – Personalized Learning
The students will return from lunch and return to their Edgenuity MyPath™ personalized learning activities.
After two short sessions working on core academic knowledge, the students will return to the various projects they are involved in or seek additional small group or individual help in core areas they are struggling with.
End of School Day
For the last 30 minutes of every day, students will check in with their “flight” teacher and reflect on the day in a journal or in conversations with the teachers. At this time, parents may collect their children, or the children can remain at the school to participate in select after-school programs.
After School Programs
The after-school programs will include community-based activities either at the school, in connection with Jasper County Schools (such as football or basketball), and/or in career-oriented locations. Students will be able to choose from a variety of programs throughout the year. The Director of Programs will be responsible for developing opportunities based on students’ needs.
How does the teacher deal with everyone “doing their own thing”?
Teachers and content coaches at Polaris Tech are active in ensuring every student is supported and challenged. They have the ability to do this given the format of the online-offline learning as well as using the applied learning approach. There is very little lecturing and a lot of self-paced learning using tablets, laptops, and other portable technology. Teachers do what the best teachers have always done–check on individual students to ensure they are learning and are making good choices about pushing forward to the next learning level.
Teachers are able to implement this approach due to the lower teacher-student ratio (average 1:20) and by utilizing Polaris Tech’s progress tracking system known as the ICAN (Individual Competency Achievement Plan) profile. The ICAN profile is a technology-enabled dynamic portfolio of student work and a roadmap students use to chart a path to meet the requirements for graduation. Every nine weeks, students use their ICAN profile to lead a review of their progress. This nine weeks review provides the teacher as well as students and parents with a comprehensive and longitudinal view of the student’s goals, learning progress for all coursework, projects, opportunities for improvement, action steps, and achievements.
How many different classes will there be per day?
The students are part of their flight throughout the day, and the instructional/educational work is completed within six or more sessions focusing on all academic, applied learning, and interest area skills. There are also after-school activities built into the school day (see question #19 above).
What is the length of the school year? Academic day? The required hours?
The Polaris Tech school year is 46 weeks. This school calendar is designed to ensure that students retain what they learn throughout the school year. Monday–Thursday of each week, students engage in academic activities. Flexible Fridays will occur on Friday of each week. (see question 34 for the description of Flexible Friday).
Polaris Tech is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday-Thursday. A typical academic day at Polaris Tech starts at 8 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m., but we anticipate having a number of after-school activities, tutoring, and extended learning opportunities that we will encourage students to join (see question # 19 above).
When may students be picked up?
Parents/guardians will be able to pick up their students from Polaris Tech from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday (depending on what after-school programs the student participates in), and at 5 p.m. on Friday.
What will the meals be? May we bring our own food?
Part of our mission is to provide a healthy environment for learning. Breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack will be available. Costs will be determined prior to the school opening. Students may bring their own food and will be encouraged to bring healthy food selections. Students may select to participate in the cooking, gardening, and nutrition education programs. Other programs within the health and wellness curriculum will be woven into the student projects each month.
Will we have clubs? May we start religious clubs?
Polaris Tech will be a student-centered and family-driven school, so we anticipate many clubs and other opportunities being available as long as they meet state requirements for public schools. Polaris Tech is a state charter school and will follow the state guidelines. The clubs will have opportunities to convene during after-school time and on Flexible Fridays at the school.
Will students get certifications for various career pathways? For example, IT? Health sciences?
Polaris Tech will work with the appropriate certifying authorities to ensure our programs meet the requirements to offer certifications to those students who complete the necessary work for standardized, national recognition.
What is applied or project based learning?
Project-based learning uses a common goal – the “project” – to incorporate various state academic standards. It is a teaching and learning method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, real-world, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.
This is a unique and highly effective approach found to be more beneficial to students than sitting at a desk listening to a lecture on a single topic or academic area. This approach helps students understand the relevance of what they are learning and why it is important in their daily lives and for the future.
Will there be opportunity for Early College Credits?
This is an ongoing conversation with USC Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry. It most likely won’t be in place our first year, but it is something we are strongly pursuing.
Will there be AP and/or GT programs?
Those programs are designed for a traditional classroom set-up. Polaris Tech is set-up with a more personalized approach. Our teachers will challenge each student to learn more each day, but it won’t be in a formal Advanced Placement or “Honors” type of program.
Students may achieve AP requirements through their progress within Edgenuity and the state required assessments.
Will we have ROTC?
This will be a school-based decision and will depend partly on whether a branch of our armed forces will support an ROTC program at Polaris Tech. The Polaris Tech Steering Committee supports ROTC and our nation’s armed forces, but this is a decision that will be guided by the school community. It is not anticipated this will be an option within the first year of the school opening.
Will we have uniforms? A dress code?
What will our school mascot be?
We will look to the Polaris Tech school community, including students, to help decide what type of mascot will represent the school.
Will there be a half - day on Friday?
Flexible Fridays will be considered a full school day and an important part of the academic calendar. The difference is that the daily schedule will be more flexible than on Monday-Thursday. Each student will work with his/her flight leader to plan how he/she will use the day. There will be mandatory whole flight and school programs that students will be expected to participate in. The following is a sample of how Flexible Friday will be implemented:
7:00 - 8:30 are the same as Monday-Thursday
Morning field trips to career centers/partners or guest speakers will work with students on specific career areas or local interest topics.
Each student plans the use of the day by extending learning, working on projects, or scheduling instructor support.
School-wide challenge – Every month, students will work on a school-wide challenge with presentations on the last Friday of each month. The challenges will be similar to Destination Imagination’s Instant Challenges and also local community challenges.
Guest speakers from career areas will present on Fridays once/per month
Lunch times for age groups remain as with Monday - Thursday
Dismissal will be handled as with Monday - Thursday at 3 - 5 pm.