Braselton Residents Asked About Interest in Charter School System | News

Although it’s just an idea at this point, it’s an idea that Braselton’s management has released to the public.

Mayor Kurt Ward, during a Monday, Feb. 28, meeting of his new Comprehensive Plan Evaluation Committee, told audience members that the committee was looking to gauge residents’ interest in a possible school system in Braselton charter.

A charter system, with a lottery-based admissions standard, would be state-funded but use a curriculum determined by the Braselton charter (subject to state charter commission approval) .

If such a system comes to fruition, Ward said the city or a 501-C-3 organization would hold the charter.

“A charter school is similar to a private school in that the charter determines the size of its classrooms and the number of students it will accept,” Ward said. “It’s a lottery system, and it’s open to the public, and it’s publicly funded.”

The system would be funded by county or state funds, not Braselton taxes.

“It’s not going to blow up and create property taxes for you,” Ward said.

Braselton, located in parts of four counties, is divided between Jackson, Gwinnett, Hall, and Barrow county school districts. Ward said a charter system would serve to unite the community around one school system instead of splitting into different directions.

“We think the possibility of bringing a charter school to Braselton will help us come together,” Ward said. “It will give us a sense of morale for our community and something to be proud of.”

This is not a new idea for Ward. The recently sworn in mayor said he has been in conversation with Lake Oconee Academy, a K-12 charter school in Greensboro, for more than two years to gather information about its charter system.

“That’s who we’ve been talking to for a long time about this concept and how to bring it to Braselton, because we think it would be good for our community,” Ward said.

Ward said a Braselton charter system would start with the younger grades before ideally extending through high school.

The issue of a charter school system is included as part of a comprehensive evaluation survey of the plan that Ward posted on his newly created website, braseltonmayor.org. In this survey, residents of downtown Braselton are specifically asked if they favor renovating the old West Jackson Elementary School campus, located near downtown, for use in a school in charter if a chartered system is pursued. The city recently purchased the site of the former school from the Jackson County School System.

Ward said a Braselton charter school system would be further discussed at the city council’s annual planning meeting on March 11. He also encouraged all citizens to respond to the survey.

“But just in theory, in concept, if it’s something you think our city should be looking at, we’d like you to address it in our survey,” Ward said.

On Ward’s website, he presented four versions of a comprehensive plan assessment committee survey – one for each of the central, east, west and downtown parts of the city – although several questions appear on all surveys (including the question about a charter school).

Residents of each region are asked if they support Braselton’s branding with these four “charter areas”.

Other questions are soliciting residents’ interest in using a multi-use pathway connecting central Braselton to downtown and a multi-use bridge over the highway. 211 and whether or not Barrow County SPLOST funds should be used for a park on the highway. 124 or on Liberty Church Rd.

Several survey questions aim to gauge opinion on housing issues and the future development of the city.

One specifically asks if residents want “missing intermediate housing” in Braselton. Missing intermediate housing includes duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and cottage courts that can be rented or owned. Downtown residents are asked whether they prefer high-density apartments and condominiums or high-density fee simple townhouses within two miles of City Hall. Residents of West Braselton are asked if they support a zoning overlay that prohibits the addition of specific businesses, such as auto service stations, to that overlay district.

Another question asks if residents agree with citizen responses to a survey included in the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. The results of this survey indicate that residents wanted more single-family homes, local stores, fine restaurants, entertainment venues and bars and wanted fewer townhouses, duplexes, condos, warehouses and big-box retail stores.

Those present at Monday’s meeting were invited to provide feedback to the committee. Among the concerns raised were problems with litter and traffic congestion at the Pilot gas station on the highway. 53 and Chardonnay Trace, the impact of Hall County leadership decisions on areas of West Braselton, and the provision of resources to Braselton police as the city grows.

Jeremy S. McLain