Charter applicants make their pitch
Three groups applying to start new charter schools in Baltimore and one applying to convert an existing school to a charter made presentations at last night's school board meeting. The board will vote on their applications Dec. 9. They are:
1) KIPP Baltimore. The Baltimore branch of the national organization that's had tremendous success with poor, minority students wants to open an elementary school to feed into its existing middle school, the high-performing KIPP Ujima Village Academy. The new KIPP Harmony Academy would start with a class of 125 kindergartners and eventually grow to serve 590 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. (Ujima starts in fifth.) Board members questioned the large number of kindergartners the school wants to serve. KIPP wants to divide them into five classes, with a teacher and an assistant in each.
2) City Neighbors. The operators of another successful charter school want to replicate the existing City Neighbors, with 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. They hope to use the building that will be vacated by closing Hamilton Middle. In 2010, they also want to start a high school for the students from both K-8s plus others, eventually serving 320. With its emphasis on project-based learning, arts integration and family involvement, the existing City Neighbors has an enormous wait list, which is what prompted the idea to replicate it.
3) Foundations Charter School. This school would start with kindergarten through second grade, eventually expanding through eighth grade to 270 students. It would be located in a church in the Oliver community, with an emphasis on literacy and leadership, with 30 students to a grade and 15 to a class.
4) The Stadium School. This existing school has already operated like a charter since its opening in 1994, so its director said, it might as well become one. To show their support for the charter application, Stadium staff, parents and students packed the board meeting last night (and waited patiently through nearly two hours of public comment before the charter presentations began). But board member David Stone was concerned that Stadium hasn't made AYP for three of the past five years.