Selected readings on US charter schools
Six new charter schools are a step closer to opening in the fall of 2014 after the state Charter School Board approved school applications to offer students more educational options, including a high school for teen moms and another one focused on winter-sports athletes.
The board ranks the charter school proposals it receives, with the highest-ranking school being Kairos Academy, which will provide “holistic” support for teen mothers and their children. It will serve 200 female students in grades 9-12 in the West Valley City and outlying Salt Lake Valley areas.
“Although the state of Utah as a whole has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, many areas in Utah have teen pregnancy rates that far exceed the national average, including the cities of West Valley City, Salt Lake City (Glendale and Rose Park), South Salt Lake and Midvale,’’ the school’s administrators wrote in their charter application.
The board’s second-ranked school was the Winter Sports School in Park City. Already a small, private school, it began in 1994 as part of the Park City Ski Team, becoming an independent nonprofit in 1998.
But by becoming a public, tax-supported charter school, Winter Sports would have to allow around 100 students access in 2014.
The school’s calendar would allow students to be off during the winter months, so the school year would begin in April 2014 and end in November 2014.
“Becoming a Utah state charter school will allow WSS to make its system available to more college-bound students who are also dedicated winter sports athletes, and would represent a first within the realm of public education in the United States,” the school’s administrators wrote in their application.
“There is not, nor has there ever been, any public education option like it in the country.”
A couple of the other charters have a Montessori focus, putting an emphasis on all five senses in learning: Mountain West Montessori Academy in South Jordan, serving 474 students in grades K-8, and Dixie Montessori Academy in St. George, serving 410 students in grades K-7.
The Ascent Academies of Utah would open two school campuses in fall 2014 (West Jordan and Centerville), with a third school being added in the fall of 2015 (West Valley City), and a fourth school in the fall of 2016 (Lehi).
The American International School of Utah will initially serve 1,000 students in grades K-12 at the former Utah Fun Dome/49th Street Galleria in Murray (4998 S. Galleria Drive).
“At the secondary level, officials anticipate that about 25 percent to 30 percent of students will be from overseas — giving our local students the opportunity to study and develop friendships with students from throughout the world,” said International School official Mike Farley. “These [foreign] students would pay tuition. They would not be subsidized by Utah taxpayers.”
In Utah, new charter schools undergo a rigorous review process, submitting applications that sometimes are more than 200 pages 18 months before opening their doors.
The state Charter School Board reviews the documents, spends one day discussing the new schools with officials, and ranks the applications.
Final approval of the charters will go before the Utah Board of Education in April.
Tim Beagley, chairman of the state Charter School Board, said there are several factors that go into ranking the new charters.
“In my opinion, how necessary and important is the school in Utah? How much do we need this school?” Beagley said. “You also take into account that this particular board of directors will fulfill the mission.”
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune – by Ray Parker