The Somerset Academy chain of charter schools is opening an elementary campus in Boca Raton this month.
The school, which is leasing space from Temple Beth El at 333 SW Fourth Ave., aims to enroll 200 students in prekindergarten (age 4) through fifth grade for the upcoming school year.
It will be Boca Raton’s second charter school. The Boca Raton Charter School, which opened in 2006, offers the rigorous International Baccalaureate program for the elementary years. Charter schools are public schools, run with public money – so no tuition for parents (except for pre-k). But they are managed independently with little oversight from the school district.
Somerset Boca’s principal, Bonnie May, told BocaParent she aims to create a family atmosphere at the school, which will be small enough for her to know the parents and all the kids’ names.
Some of the parents inquiring about Somerset say their children are getting lost in the big public elementary schools, where enrollment has swelled in recent years. Others, hit hard by the economy, are finding they can no longer afford private school.
“We are that middle ground,” May said.
She has worked for Somerset schools for 10 years and said parent involvement is a big part of its culture: “We want them here on campus.”
In fact, families will be required to put in volunteer hours.
Parents will also have a say in what classes are offered. One Somerset school in another community offers Mandarin language classes, after parents asked for it.
May, who previously served as an administrator at the Chapel Trail campus in Pembroke Pines, said she will emphasize science. Students from pre-k and up will do science labs as part of the “specials” schedule, with art, music and PE. A former science teacher, May said the hands-on lessons are exciting and fun for younger kids, but are often set aside because standardized tests focus on reading and math.
Charter school students must take the FCAT, as all public school students do. (To see how the Somerset schools in Miami-Dade and Broward did this year, check the database at MiamiHerald.com. Most traditional public schools in Boca held onto their ‘A’ ratings this year. Get their scores here.)
Somerset runs about 30 schools, most of them in Florida, where the first opened in 1997. They are managed by Academica, Florida’s largest charter-school management company. (Read more about Academica at MiamiHerald.com.)
The Boca campus was initially slated for Boynton Beach, where Somerset is planning to build a middle and high school. (Read more about that at The Palm Beach Post.)
But when managers found the location in Boca, they decided to put it here. Administrators are busy installing computers and smartboards, outfitting the library and equipping 12 classrooms in space that once housed the temple’s preschool. (The preschool moved to Beth El’s new facility at Yamato Road and State Road 441 a few years ago.)
The Ben Gamla Hebrew charter schools had previously planned to move in to the space, but that didn’t pan out. Sea Star Initiative, a Waldorf school that is expanding its grades, will also occupy some of the temple’s classrooms.
Somerset registration process
Open enrollment is going on through Aug. 1. A lottery system may be used later to fill the last remaining seats if necessary. How many classes are offered for each grade will depend on demand, May said.
Registration packets can be picked up at the school: 3 to 6 p.m. July 16, and 9 a.m. to noon on July 18 and 19.
Parents are urged to register as soon as possible.
An informational meeting is scheduled for 6:30-7:30 p.m. July 18 at the school.
- Lunch: The campus has a cafeteria. Lunch will be catered by Yummy in My Tummy, May says, at a cost comparable to traditional public school lunches.
- Pre-K: This program is tuition based – $500 a month for classes that run 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. After-care is available. Somerset is not part of the state’s free voluntary prekindergarten program.
- Jobs: Somerset will be hiring teachers and support staff as soon as enrollment is set. Applicants can email their resumes to May: bmay @ somersetboca.com.
- School hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Early dropoff: Starting at 7 a.m.; $95 a month.
- After care: Till 6 p.m.; $175 a month.
- Uniforms: Required. Get the details at Somersetboca.com.
- Special needs: Kids with an Individualized Education Program or an Educational Plan for gifted are accepted, as required by law. However, the school may not be equipped to handle extreme special needs.
To learn more
- CHARLENE PACENTI