Tybee Island Maritime Academy is a unique charter school located on Tybee Island along
Georgia’s coast. The Savannah-Chatham County public charter school serves students in Kindergarten through the fifth grade and utilizes a maritime, career and project-based curriculum.
The minute you walk in the school’s door, you notice something is different. Flip-flops, sunscreen, fishing poles and other items you would take to the beach or see along the shoreline are in classrooms throughout the school. Students are able to walk to the beach to view marine animals and explore Georgia’s coastal habitat rather than reading about it in a textbook or online.
“The maritime theme is a general theme that we teach our standards around,” said Patrick Rossiter, principal of Tybee Island Maritime Academy. “For instance, when we look at numbers, our kindergartners might be looking at numbers on the bow of a ship to see how deep in the water it is.”
This year, the school is also partnering with Bloomindale Elementary, a traditional school in the county, to learn about landforms on Tybee Island. First graders at Bloomingdale elementary and Tybee Island Maritime Academy will walk to the beach to draw and build mountains, rivers and other landforms out of sand.
Tybee Island Maritime Academy also takes students on field trips to places like the Port of Savannah, one of the largest economic drivers in Georgia. While at the Port of Savannah, students view container vessels loading and unloading. They also learn lessons about logistics and supply chains.
“We’re trying to plant seeds early,” said Rossiter. “Exposing them to a maritime education allows students to see that they could attend a school like Georgia Southern University and work for the Georgia Port Authority, a container company, or become a captain on the river, or go into the maritime industry. Also, if they learn about logistics and supply chains, it makes them more informed consumers.”
The school was recently renewed for a second charter contract with Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools and the Georgia Department of Education. As part of its latest charter with the state, Tybee Island Maritime Academy began using a weighted lottery system. Weighted lotteries became legal in Georgia in 2015. They allow disadvantaged students to have a greater chance of gaining admittance into a charter school when the number of students who want to attend a school exceeds its capacity. Rossiter said the school is committed to diversity and draws its student body from across Chatham County. He said recruitment efforts and use of the weighted lottery system are already paying off and have allowed the school to significantly increase its percentage of disadvantaged students.
Last year, Tybee Island Maritime Academy significantly surpassed state and district averages on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index. Rossiter says he’s proud of what the school has accomplished since the school opened its doors five years ago.
“We’ve been able to establish ourselves as one of the premier schools in Chatham County,” said Rossiter. “We get ranked against a number of successful schools that have been that way for years and years. In five years, we’ve managed to take our place among those schools and maintain it. Still, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve.”
Rossiter said he meets with teachers at the
end of the year to evaluate the school year and create a plan to make the following year even better for students. He says Tybee Island Maritime teachers, staff and board members work closely together to maintain the feeling of a small, close-knit school that students want to attend. (Rossiter is pictured with a Tybee Island Maritime Academy student on the right).
“You take great kids, with great teachers in a school where flexibility is allowed, and the parents get involved, your end result is going to be positive,” said Rossiter. “That’s exactly what’s happened at Tybee Island Maritime Academy.”