South Columbus Preparatory Academy opens in Schumacher Place

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
Fourth-grade teacher Emily Fulk helps Tyrese Travis, 9, of Columbus with an assignment Aug. 25 at South Columbus Prepatory Academy at German Village.

Education has returned to 387 E. Beck St.

South Columbus Preparatory Academy at German Village has taken over the old Beck Street Elementary School, which has been vacant for three years.

South Columbus Prep is associated with ACCEL Schools, a chain of charter schools with more than 50 sites in Ohio. It is a tuition-free K-7 school that serves the needs of all students, from those gifted and talented to those who are disabled, Superintendent Chad Carr said.

Classes began Aug. 21 for 90 children online and Aug. 24 for 100 students, safely distanced, in the building.

The plan is to add a grade each year until 12th grade, when the school peaks at a capacity of 450, providing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has eased by then, Carr said.

At that point, a lottery system for admission will be likely, he said.

To enroll, students have to establish residency and provide a birth certificate. Enrollment is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, Carr said.

"We run very successful schools on a third of (the costs) what other public schools run theirs," he said.

Those funds come from money the state awards to each child, Ohio Education Foundation dollars and federal education resources.

Carr said he did not have a budget ready for this school year but said part of the reason South Columbus Prep is able to operate on a shoestring budget is there are no sports teams and, therefore, no need for athletics facilities.

Some ACCEL schools have athletics.

"If the interest is there, we try to provide sports or clubs, Carr said.

Extracurricular educational programs will start in the near future.

South Columbus Preparatory Academy Southfield, 4220 Groveport Road, also is run by ACCEL Schools, Carr said. It opened in fall 2017.

South Columbus Prep at German Village is in the Schumacher Place neighborhood.

He said the organization typically picks sites in old buildings in underserved neighborhoods, whose public school system -- which in this case is Columbus City Schools -- is underperforming.

The Beck school was built in 1884. ACCEL, which purchased the property in May for $1.7 million, spent another $300,000 in upgrades to the building, Carr said.

Principal Jerod Hawk, who's been in education for 12 years, has spent his last two with Accel. He said the focus on education has made him a believer.

"I think the big difference is funding, doing more with less," Hawk said. "I think it's more rewarding."

Lola Rodriguez, 9, is a fourth-grader at South Columbus Prep, starting her second year with Accel.

Originally from Texas, Rodriguez and her family moved to Dublin two years ago when her mother, Michelle, received a promotion.

"It's a really big space," Rodriguez said of the school. "I love the library."

"I like Mrs. (Emily) Fulk," she said. "She's really nice. The school just never gives up. It just keeps on going."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary

Students maintain social distancing while making their way back to class Aug. 25 at South Columbus Prepatory Academy at German Village.