The Crane Elementary School District governing board recently adopted a charter to move forward with the establishment of a district-sponsored charter school to be opened Fall 2013.
After multiple questions and much discussion from the district board staff, parents and other community members at a public meeting Tuesday, the motion to adopt the charter passed 4 to 1, with board member Jim Colby dissenting.
The plan for the charter school is that the curriculum would be based in science, with science interwoven into other core areas. Superintendent Bob Klee said results from a community survey about the charter school showed that about 80 percent expressed interest in the district moving forward with the idea.
One concern voiced by some at the meeting were that existing public schools in the district would deteriorate in quality if a charter school were to open.
Administration stated that their hope is that it will in fact help improve the district's public schools, as the charter school will allow them to try out new learning methods that can be later be shared and tailored to public school curriculum.
Associate Superintendent Lynn Thompson said that because public schools are held accountable by the state for teaching four core subject areas in a certain way, they would not necessarily be able to design a curriculum weighing heavily in science at those schools. But with a charter school, she said, they have more flexibility.
Klee shared that the main goals in opening this charter school are to provide parental choice; provide additional resources to the district as charter school students receive an additional $1,000 from the state; and to use the successful methods learned at the charter school to ramp up the performance at all district schools.
“It will not drain any resources from the district, actually it brings additional resources into the district,” he said.
The charter school committee, made up of district administration, staff and board members, as well as community representatives, recommended that the charter school be placed at H.L. Suverkrup Elementary School, 1590 S. Ave. C, as it is the district school with the most extra space. Initial plans to find a building within its boundaries to be used fell through. H.L. Suverkrup has about 450 students and it is designed to hold 700.
During the charter school's first year, enrollment will be capped at 240 students in first- through fourth-grade and build on a new grade level every year until it is a K-12 school. Thompson explained that per statute, enrollment for the district sponsored charter school is first opened up to students within the Crane boundaries and then to the rest of the community. Students would not be required to test into the school and those that may fall behind due to the fast-paced nature of the curriculum would have the opportunity for extra help and after-school programs, administration stated.
In regards to special education students, Klee said that they will offer the same services to the charter school students that are offered to other special education students in the district.
“Charter schools cannot exclude special needs students,” said Klee. “All students are eligible to be a part of a charter school.”
When asked about class sizes, Thompson said that will be determined by interest and the amount of people that enroll.
The charter school staff will be paid at the same salary and benefit plan as current employees in the district and they are looking to hire people with very strong content knowledge in science and mathematics. Jobs are to be posted in December with hiring beginning in January. The plan, Klee said, is to hire a principal or a director depending on qualifications as well as nine teachers to begin with and one office staff person. Other services would be shared with Suverkrup at this time such as custodial, health assistant and food services.
As far as transportation goes, Klee said they are planning to provide transportation within the district boundaries and all other students would either have to be dropped off on campus or at a district bus stop to be transported to the school.
Klee said that he also wanted to dispel other misconceptions that opening a charter school would increase taxes for residents in Yuma as that is not the case.
Visit www.craneschools.org/charterupdates for more information from the Crane charter school planning committee.