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Monday, October 02, 2023

Santa Fe College’s new charter school to bolster inclusivity with no entrance fees, requirements

It’s opening Fall 2023 to 75 ninth graders

<p>The Alan J. Robertson Administration building at Santa Fe College is seen Friday, June 18, 2021.</p>

The Alan J. Robertson Administration building at Santa Fe College is seen Friday, June 18, 2021.

More than 70 Alachua County ninth graders will have the opportunity to get a high school diploma, an associate in science degree or two industry certifications at Santa Fe College’s new charter school, starting Fall 2023. 

Santa Fe Academy of Science and Technology will be the first of its kind in Gainesville by having a curriculum offering college courses and industry certifications that comes with no costs or specific requirements from students. 

There’s no application process and students will be admitted into the school on a first-come, first-served basis. Founders of the school see the lack of entrance barriers as a way to guarantee all Alachua County students have equal opportunity to attend the academy.

Jen Homard, executive director of secondary programs at SFC, said she wanted the school to be a true representation of the area, she said. 

“There's always requirements [for this type of school] and that's not what we want. We want this to truly look like the makeup of Gainesville,” Homard said. “We want there to be a specific number of students that are minority, IEP, ESE.” 

Homard approached SFC President Paul Broadie II with the idea of the school in 2020, she said.

The academy will be a four-year program located on Santa Fe College campus. In addition to general high school requirements, students will have the opportunity to take college classes and industry certification courses.

In order to promote inclusivity within the school, Homard and faculty plan to go out into local communities to inform the public about the school. No student should be prevented from participating in the program, Homard said. 

Along with Homard, Bill McElroy and Adrian Debose make up the school’s staff. McElroy and Debose were named principal and curriculum director, respectively, of the school. Both have educational experience in Alachua County, working and leading in public high schools. 

The academy plans to hire the rest of administration staff and teaching staff by Spring 2023, Homard said.

McElroy and Debose look forward to leading a new school that provides a different academic experience for Gainesville students, they said. 

After the first semester, students will decide their desired pathways for their associate degrees. The pathway options are biotechnology, surgical technology, computer information technology and information technology security. 

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“Students have an opportunity to go into their field of passion right away and enter into their career at an earlier age,” Debose said. “I think that is a tremendous opportunity.”

A program where students have the opportunities to follow their passions is something to be admired, McElroy said. 

“It is something that's brand new,” McElroy said. “This has been done in other places, but it's new to Gainesville. I think it's going to provide a really unique experience for the kids.” 

Along with the excitement, the school administration is preparing for the expected challenges that come with opening a new charter school. 

Getting students through their high school requirements, college degrees and two industry certifications in four years is a lofty goal, Hornard said, as they’re offering them something that normally should take five to six years. 

“Any student that comes our way, no matter where they are with reading or math, we are determined to attempt to help them get through,” Homard said. 

Some of those challenges students will have to face include leaving their peers and coming to a brand new school. 

“I think we're gonna get that sort of student that is bold and wants to take the chance to be a part of the thing that they've never had here,” McElroy said. “That’s exciting.”

Contact Claire at Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire. 

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Claire Grunewald

Claire Grunewald is a fourth-year journalism major and the Fall 2023 engagement managing editor. In the past, she reported for the university and metro desks. When she isn't working at The Alligator, she is reviewing books on Goodreads and going to concerts. 

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