Local: Education

District charter schools set to expand

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner
The District's booming charter school network is set to expand further Monday evening when school leaders vote on 11 wide-ranging applications to open schools.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board is also likely to approve another campus for KIPP DC, a high-performing charter operator looking to create more slots for preschoolers through eighth-grade students.

"We have a real sense of urgency about expanding," said Susan Schaeffler, CEO of KIPP DC, which has 2,627 students on waiting lists for its three campuses. That's one student more than the 2,626 enrolled.

Charter hopefuls
Applicant school

Program / FocusGradesSize at full capacityDesired locations
Community College Preparatory AcademyAdult educationAdultsUnspecifiedWards 5,7,8
Ingenuity PrepEarly childhoodPreK-8500 studentsWards 6,7,8
Student Parent AchievementArabic immersion/bilingualK-12840 studentsWard 3
Center of Excellency (SPACE)
Washington Day SchoolElementary/middleK-8UnspecifiedWards 5,6,7
Washington D.C. Clean EnergyAdult/Adult educationAdultsUnspecifiedWards 5,6
D.C. Hebrew LanguageHebrew immersionPreK-8535 studentsWards 1,4,5
Somerset Preparatory AcademyCollege prep6-12840 studentsWards 4,8
D.C. Flex AcademyCombined traditional and onlineK-12650 studentsNE or NW
FLOWVirtual adult educationAdults450 studentsVirtual
Lee MontessoriMontessoriPreK-6185 studentsWard 5
MaiAngel Leadership AcademyAlternative education for at-risk youthAges 16 to 21200 studentsNW or SW

Charter schools have been rapidly growing in the District, with enrollment increasing by 8 percent this school year, continuing a steady trend over the last decade. The 53 charters operating on 98 campuses serve nearly 32,000 children, or 41 percent of all public school students in the District. Last spring, the board approved four new charter schools that are slated to open this fall.

But if there's a saturation point, charter leaders say they're far from it as parents continue to enter lotteries for coveted spots in the city's top charters.

Among the 11 applications to be voted on Monday are two schools that separately proposed Hebrew and Arabic language-immersion programs; three adult education charters, including one virtual school; a K-12 campus that would be partially online; and college prep, Montessori and early childhood programs.

Charter applicants must explain why they would meet the needs of an underserved student population, as well as detail their fiscal and academic plans.

Naomi DeVeaux, deputy director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, declined to discuss specifics about Monday's prospects.

"The board makes a decision on whether this group has a very high chance of success," DeVeaux said.

KIPP DC, which operates several programs across three top-rated campuses, also will find out Monday if it has the board's blessing to open a fourth campus. The organization is eyeing a number of former DC Public Schools campuses, especially a spot near Browne Education Campus in Northeast, but is also keeping an eye out for more facilities.

Finding a space is an ongoing problem for charter schools, which must secure their own buildings.

"I want to expand, I want to meet more kids' needs in the city, and the one thing holding us back is access to facilities," Schaeffler said. "That's what I know."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner