Charter school space at issue for school board

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2006

The Kenai Peninsula school board is expected to get a first look Monday at proposed changes to the borough school district’s policy governing charter schools.

The school board meets at Homer High School at 7 p.m.

For the past several months, the school district’s Charter School Study Team, consisting of representatives from charter schools and neighborhood schools, has been reviewing the policy and making suggestions for improving it, according to Assistant Superintendent Glen Szymoniak.

“The big issues are ‘Who’s the boss?’ and the issue of facility size and space usage,” he said.

Charter schools, which were started under the Clinton administration, operate in regular public school buildings, but have the option of establishing their own curricula and reading lists, separate from those in use by public schools.

By having essentially two schools operating in one school building, Szymoniak said the issue of who ultimately makes decisions regarding classroom usage occurs often.

The proposed charter school policy addresses the issue and sets up rules for establishing a charter school.

Under the proposal, if a charter school is to use space in an existing school district facility:

· “The charter school will modify its application, policies and bylaws to operate in harmony with other schools in the district.

· “The superintendent will annually determine if the amount of space requested by the charter school will be available, based on enrollment projections and school capacity ... .

· “The superintendent will negotiate the terms of sharing a facility and make recommendations to the board at a work session.”

The proposed guidelines state that the combined capacity of a charter school and the neighborhood school is not to exceed 90 percent of the rated capacity of the facility.

While no applications are currently pending to start a charter school on the Kenai Peninsula, four charter schools already exist here: Fireweed in Homer, Montessori in Soldotna, Kaleidoscope in Kenai’s Sears Elementary School and Aurora Borealis in the Kenai Alternative School.

In addition to the charter school policy, the board of education is slated to consider permanently returning the Nikiski Elementary School building to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and to consider designating the former Seward Middle School facility as surplus and turning over control of the building to the borough.

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