Santa Fe College is launching a new STEM-focused charter school at the college’s northwest campus in Fall 2023.
With a $2 million grant from the State of Florida, the school will offer high school students training in information technology and health sciences, according to a press release. The college received the grant Feb. 2 as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $89 million plan to enhance workforce initiatives across the state.
SF will use the grant to renovate an existing facility on its campus so students have an up-to-date technology-enhanced learning space, said SF president Paul Broadie II. The college hasn’t yet released details on where the facility will be or how students will be admitted.
The school will open its doors in Fall 2023 for students grades nine through 12. Upon graduation, students will leave with a high school diploma, an associate’s degree and at least two industry credentials at no cost to them or their families. Students can then choose to enter the workforce or continue their education, SF spokesperson Jay Anderson said.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for skilled workers, especially in the health science field, said Henry Mack, Florida Department of Education’s Senior Chancellor of Career and Adult Education.
“We want an economy that is preparing citizens for jobs that can withstand disruption,” he said.
He hopes the creation of this specialized charter school will combat the needs of the pandemic and beyond.
A charter Career Technical Education School is dedicated to meeting a specific economic need where a traditional public school follows a more rigid course schedule, Mack said.
Broadie has received repeated requests from the community to infuse CTE more at the high school level, according to the college’s website.
Additional programs at SF’s new charter school seem unwarranted to some because SF already has CTE programs that allow Alachua County high schoolers to take college-level courses, Alachua County Public Schools spokesperson Jackie Johnson said.
“Unless the programs are dramatically different from what we already offer in the high school in collaboration with Santa Fe, it sounds like there may be some perhaps unnecessary duplication of programs and services,” Johnson said. “We won’t know that until we get more details about what these programs will look like.”
Johnson is worried the new programs may take away from or damage the existing successful programs.
While students can take dual enrollment courses in addition to their high school diploma, Broadie said, they don’t guarantee the student graduates with an associate’s degree.
The new charter school will be based on a new model of public education called the P-TECH model, giving students an associate’s degree, relevant work experience and guidance from mentors, according to the P-TECH website.
“This model will be able to greatly expand the number of students interested in Health Sciences and Information Technology who otherwise would not be able to qualify within the existing high school dual enrollment format,” Broadie wrote in an email.
Only eight students are currently participating in SF’s CTE dual enrollment program, he wrote.
But by the end of Fall 2023, Broadie anticipates there will be many students with one foot in the charter school hallway and the other one stepping into the workforce.
Contact Lily Kino at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lily_kino.
Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.