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Charter school fights uphill battle in Loudoun County

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Local,Virginia,Education,Rachel Baye

Loudoun County's would-be first public charter school has four meetings left to win over the county school board, but so far the school has not had much success.

The Loudoun Math & IT Academy applied to be a public charter school that would serve students in grades six through 12 -- starting with nearly 200 students in grades six and seven in its first year -- and focus on math and information technologies, according to the school's August application.

Though the application initially gained some support, opposition has been steadily growing amid questions about the proposed school's budget, management and curriculum.

The school's proposal lacked key curriculum details, including content descriptions for several courses, a panel of Loudoun County Public Schools staff wrote in comments. The application also appears to neglect both gifted students and English language learners, they said.

The budget for the 2013-2014 school year also assumes a budget deficit, staff wrote, rather than the necessary balanced budget.

In response, the school submitted an updated proposal, including changes to its curriculum and promises to work with the county school system on issues like educating gifted students.

Still, the concerns of many parents and local officials have not been alleviated.

In December, Loudoun County Supervisor Geary Higgins and Republican state Sen. Richard Black formally withdrew their earlier support.

"Questions have been raised about whether other charter schools associated with this particular network have experienced high rates of failure and poor financial management," Black wrote. "Since $8 million will be diverted from the Loudoun County Public School System for the proposed school, I am reluctant to endorse a proposal submitted by a group whose management does not enjoy a solid level of public trust and confidence."

Last month, two members of a three-person school board committee voted to reject the application, while the third voted to send it back to the school for revisions. The full nine-member school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 26. Until then, the school has four meetings -- including two public hearings -- to make its case.

A representative of the school did not return requests for comment.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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