Local school boards seem to be responding to the Legislature’s less-than-gentle prodding to “adopt” the handful of existing charter schools left in limbo by a May 16 state Supreme Court ruling.
On Monday, DeKalb County granted one-year waivers to two charter schools approved by the now defunct Charter Schools Commission. Peachtree Hope Charter School and the Museum School of Avondale Estates will be able to open for a second year, but they will have to reapply to the school board for the standard five-year charter school contract. So, their new lease on life is a short-term one for the present.
It’s a wise public relations move by the DeKalb board, given the 11th hour decision by the state Supreme Court and the uncertainty facing the parents in the impacted charter schools. The high court’s decision affects 16 charter schools, only eight of which are in operation. The other eight are due to open in August, and it’s not clear how many will win local approval.
Without that local approval, the schools could still open as state charter schools under the State Board of Education’s auspices, but they would not earn any local dollars. And those local dollars account for half of the spending in most public schools in Georgia today. (The vast majority of charter schools in Georgia are already under the umbrella of local systems.)
The 16 commission charters collectively would have enrolled 15,644 students this fall, 10,000 of whom would be taking their classes virtually through online schools.
One virtual school is operating, the Georgia Cyber Academy, and two are supposed to open this fall. Brick and mortar schools represent only a third of the students stranded by the high court’s ruling. It’s interesting that two-thirds of the affected students would be taking classes online, a growing trend in Georgia and elsewhere.
Parents reacted with relief to the unanimous vote of the nine-member school board.
“I’m very happy to see that they have embraced us,” said Canangela Robertson, whose 7-year-old son just finished his first year at Peachtree Hope. She has another boy, 5, set to start there in the fall and a girl, 2, who hopes to attend someday.
Robertson chose the charter school over a county magnet school for the arts. She said her eldest child was allowed to attend the charter school when the neighborhood school failed to make adequate yearly progress.
“I love the college prep curriculum they have in place,” she said, also citing the daily Spanish immersion and the double daily sessions of math and English. “And they also offer art and music.”
School board members questioned the charter school attendance lines and the demographics of the students at the schools, and said they hoped the long-term charter applications would address their concerns.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog