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Local: Education

Local charters opposed by some neighbors

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Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

The state of charter schools in the District and Northern Virginia couldn't be more different. But the opposition to them? Quite similar.

Parents at Falls Church High School in Fairfax County are protesting an application to open a charter school just down the road from the campus, saying the Fairfax Leadership Academy would pull students and resources away from their already-struggling, underenrolled neighborhood school.

"They do not have enough public transportation funding secured, and they say in their own proposal that 30 percent will be walking from nearby neighborhoods. Well, that's our neighborhood," said Joan Daly, whose child is a junior at Falls Church High School. "They say it's a county school, but how are kids from Centreville going to get there?"

The District has also been grappling with how to balance the growth of charter schools with the need to replenish neighborhood schools.

Earlier this year, the deputy mayor for education released a report that recommended closing or turning around -- likely as charter schools -- more than 30 D.C. Public Schools' campuses, prompting former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown to suggest that charters give preference to children who live in the schools' neighborhoods.

Concerned lawmakers have also pointed out that when involved parents leave the neighborhood schools for better charter schools, the neighborhood schools can be left without advocates.

In Falls Church, parents say they have enough trouble filling sports teams and justifying academic programs due to low enrollment, which they say is caused by Fairfax County Public Schools delaying renovations to Falls Church High School.

Jane Strauss, chairwoman of the county school board, said the high school's enrollment is expected to increase over the next few years.

"It's a separate issue, whatever we do with facilities, renovations, additions, what have you SEmD that's separate from this charter school application," Strauss said. "I know there are some building modifications going on this summer with Falls Church High School. I know parents are concerned, but they will get their turn."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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