JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Palmetto Scholars Academy, an award-winning charter school for gifted and talented children, held a ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 23, 2016, celebrating the opening of a new school building in Hunley Park on Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
The ceremony marked the culmination of a four-year effort, across various sectors of government, to gain the permissions and funding needed to build on Hunley Park.
"Today's ribbon cutting is important to the military families that serve here," said U.S. Air Force Col. Robert K. Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander, during his remarks at the ribbon cutting. "It represents more than four years of partnership."
When the charter school opened in 2010, PSA was located in a small daycare center on the Naval Weapons Station. Because there was little funding, the school came close to closing several times.
"We had a very tough first year, financially," Stacey Lindbergh, PSA chairman of the board, said. "There were several times I thought we were going to have to lock up permanently. If it hadn't been for my mother, a 70-year-old Air Force widow, putting her own house up for sale, I don't think we would have made it."
Funding was a constant problem for the PSA faculty and board.
"I had gone to several people to try and help us," Lindbergh said, "but I was getting nowhere."
Running out of options, Lindberg thought of approaching the JB Charleston commander, Col. Robert McComb.
"Going to Col. McComb was a long shot. I didn't know if it was going to work, but after talking to him, I knew we were going to be successful," Lindbergh said.
McComb worked with PSA to establish the new location of the school right across the street from the Air Base.
Jeffrey Garrett, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron installation management flight chief, has been working on this project since it started five years ago.
"When Col. McComb had found out about this opportunity, he was excited about it from the start," Garrett said. "It was a long process, but in the end, we were able to come to the agreement on the amount of land as well as the land lease itself."
On May 1, 2015, PSA held its ground breaking ceremony at Hunley Park, marking the beginning of construction for PSA's new school. The new building took more than eight months to complete and increased the school's space by 30,000 square feet.
"If it weren't for Col. McComb," Lindbergh said, "I don't think we would have ever found a new home."
Noel Tufts, a ninth grader and a second year student at PSA, is very optimistic about the new facilities.
"I'm excited about the new building," Tufts said. "Not only are we getting actual labs and a gym but we're actually getting real classrooms and bathrooms. Everyone is helping pack and move everything from the old building to the new one."
To get the approval for the building, Lindbergh worked with the South Carolina Legislature to introduce and pass the S.C. Military Charter Law, which allows charter schools to designate a portion of the slots in their student body to children of active duty military personnel assigned to military installations that provide land or facilities.
"We are saving about 20% of our slots for active duty military personnel's children," Lindbergh said. "Being an old military brat myself, I know how important it is for military kids to get a good education as well as have a good environment in which to learn."
As the JB Charleston commander, Lyman also expressed his enthusiasm for the new opportunity.
"With no degree of overstatement, I believe this school will literally transform the experience of military families who serve here," he said. "It marks a new educational opportunity, right in our back yard."
Officially opening its halls on Jan. 29, the new home for PSA provides a more spacious and modern learning center for the children.
The new facility allows the students to do science projects in actual science classrooms and experience physical education in a real gym, Tufts said. Additionally, the added space in the school enables more South Carolina gifted and talented student to attend PSA.
"The charter school, being an A rated school, will produce a vital quality educational option for military families and the surrounding community," Garrett said.