A New Neighboring Charter School Focuses on Aerospace

A new charter school that is focused on aeronautics is attracting students from Colleton County.
The school, Polaris Tech Charter School, is located in Ridgeland across from the Ridgeland Airport. The free, no-tuition school is being led by Dr. Melissa Crosby. Crosby is the executive director of the new school: she is also the former principal and former director of New Tech at Colleton County High School.
According to Crosby, the new charter school is attracting a “growing number of Colleton and Hampton County students.” Specifically, Crosby says the school’s curriculum could definitely benefit the career goals of Colleton County students.
“One common misconception is that all charter schools’ attendance zones are in the counties where they are located,” she said. “As part of the S.C. Public Charter School District, Polaris can service students from all counties. Many parents in Colleton do not realize the option exists.”
The new charter school is offering a high school-based aerospace career path for the upcoming school year. Because of its proximity to multiple aerospace corporations, including Gulfstream, Boeing and Lockhead Martin, Polaris Tech’s Board of Directors have agreed to jumpstart the school’s aerospace curriculum, Crosby said. The school has partnered with these companies to provide “aerospace engineering, biomedical science, information technology, transportation and logistics and advanced manufacturing.
“It’s unrivaled,” she said, of what the school is offering in these subject areas.
As far as the difference between Polaris Tech Charter and what is being offered now at New Tech in Colleton County, Crosby says the primary difference is that Polaris Tech is a “competency-based school,” meaning that students can move forward in the program based on demonstrating their competency in the subjects.
“One of the innovations in the charter movement is less dependency on seat time, and a greater emphasis on deeper learning and quality of demonstrated skill sets,” she said. She said there are many similarities in the “New Tech philosophy” and the charter school’s “competency-based model.”
“We know aerospace is a growing segment of the Lowcountry and Savannah economies, and it is expected to continue to grow here and across the country,” she said. “Our Board of Directors realized that our students and our four-county coverage area were ready to start this high school curriculum a year sooner than originally planned.”
Crosby is also a longtime educator and is a nationally-board certified teacher. For the past year, she has led Polaris Tech, a state-approved charter school that serves middle and high school students. These students primarily come from Colleton, Jasper, Hampton and Beaufort counties.
The school is now accepting new student applications for the 2019-2020 school year for students who will be in grades 6-10.
Applications are due by March 1 and are available online at www.polaristech.org.
“We are centrally located so much of the Lowcountry, and many students in Colleton, Hampton and Beaufort Counties, are as close to our school as they might be to their own high schools, but we offer a different approach to teaching and learning,” said retired U.S. Air Force Four-Star General Lloyd “Fig” Newton.
Newton is one of the founding members of the school and is a native of Jasper County. He was recently inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame. In December of 2018, he also received the 2018 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for “extraordinary achievements as a history-making African American military aviator and his continuing contributions to the advancement of aviation education and advocacy,” the award states.
“Certainly, my experiences in aviation, both in the military and in the private sector after I retired, influence my interest in this aerospace curriculum,” he said, “but it’s also very obviously something that will benefit students from our Lowcountry area.”
According to Crosby, “every aspect of Polaris Tech” is intended to prepare students for college and for their career. She said the school uses a “rigorous course of competency-based study,” and uses “relevant applied-learning projects.” The curriculum also uses open learning spaces to “help students learn and progress academically,” she said.
As a part of their curriculum, the school is also going to increase their involvement with the Lego robotics and STEM-academic programs. Polaris Tech is already hosting an upcoming robotics competition, which will be held on Feb. 23rd.
“The culture is strong here,” said Crosby, speaking about Polaris New Tech.
“This movement is about creating ownership in learning, high levels of relevancy and engagement and equitable learning environments,” she said.
For more information on the Polaris Tech Charter School, follow them on Facebook or visit their Web site at www.polaristech.org. You can also email the school at info@polaristech.org.

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