Selected readings on US charter schools
Jamie Haines, principal of GSA, said that with a beginning capacity of 240 students, the Crane Elementary School District-sponsored charter school has about 150 applicants submitted, with more being turned in during the informational meeting.
She said the school will start out offering two classes each of first through fourth grade, with plans to build on a grade level per year eventually as a K-12 school. Hiring is under way for the school’s nine teachers and one office staff member, said Haines, noting that they hope to have them on board by March so they can begin planning for the coming school year.
They will share a campus and services with H.L. Suverkrup Elementary School such as custodial, health assistant and food services. Suverkrup is designed to hold 700 students and currently has about 450.
Haines said reasons for opening the charter school included answering the call of the community, which voiced a need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based school, as well as the expected nationwide increase of STEM careers.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, in the next five years, STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields,” she said. “While all jobs are expected to grow by 10.4 percent, STEM jobs are expected to grow to increase by 21.4 percent. Similarly, 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills. If we look at our nation as a whole, we are not graduating nearly enough STEM students to meet that demand.”
The school will be based on Next Generation Science Standards and will have an Engineering Is Elementary support curriculum, used by schools like Knox Gifted Academy in Phoenix, and Design Squad Engineering curriculum, created by Intel.
Haines reiterated throughout the evening that while core subjects like reading, writing and math will still be taught at the school, it will all be through the lens of science. The instruction will be fast-paced and rigorous, she said, but is open to all students throughout the community despite district boundaries or a child’s test scores.
Parents asked Wednesday about class sizes and the selection process, as well as children’s accessibility to things like art and music and what the requirement will look like for parents to volunteer in the classroom.
Haines said the plan is to have 30 students per grade level, which is subject to fluctuation by a few students per class based on interest. She gave the example of a child who may be enrolled in the school in coming fall. Their siblings will automatically have the option to enter the school in the future as they become age eligible, she explained.
Preference for enrollment is given first to Crane district students, said Haines, which is required by law for district-sponsored charter schools. She said if enrollment at particular grade levels exceeds capacity, the selection process would go to a lottery system in which students would be randomly selected until the first 60 are reached for that grade, with preference given to Crane students.
Haines said that the school’s site council will play a big role in determining after-school programs, which could include things like art and music. It will also create a plan for requirements and enforcement of parental involvement, which is currently estimated to be 20 hours of volunteer time for each family per year.
Ericka Nelson, a parent with children currently attending H.L. Suverkrup, said she is excited about the opportunity that this charter school provides for her children.
“I just really like the science and technology base … I feel that they sometimes miss out on that,” she said, noting that while she is happy with the education they are receiving at Suverkrup, she feels they can benefit from additional STEM education.
Nelson said the requirement for parents to be involved in the classroom is also a plus.
“I like that parents will be involved and so we’ll find that support within each other,” she said, noting that sometimes it is harder to get parents involved in other public schools.
Source: Yuma Sun – by Sarah Womer