November 26, 2013 in City

Three groups seek charter schools in Spokane, with one proposed for 2014

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Lawsuit

 Charter school applications arrived even as Washington’s charter school law is the subject of a King County court case.

 A coalition of parents, teachers and others contends the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with public school funding and curriculum.

 A state judge soon will decide the fate of the law.

Three groups have applied to open charter schools in Spokane.

The first is Pride Prep, a grass-roots effort led by former Garry Middle School principal Brenda McDonald. The proposed college preparatory school for sixth through 12th grades would include several years of a foreign language, extra math and science, nine-hour school days and an extended school year. Pride Prep would use a four-“T” philosophy: time, technology, targets and talent.

The other two proposals given to Spokane Public Schools are from organizations based in California.

The applications submitted Friday arrived even as the state’s charter school law approved last year by voters is the subject of a King County court case.

A coalition of parents, teachers and others contends the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with public school funding and curriculum.

A state judge soon will decide the fate of the charter school law.

The California-based charter school organizations include The Academy of Arts and Sciences.

It operates in 14 counties, mixing online courses with on-site learning and support for K-12 students. Students also have opportunities to participate in a variety of arts and sciences programs, including dance, drama, media, gaming and electronics and engineering. This model has a heavy parent participation component.

The third applicant, iLead, uses children’s interests to teach lessons in a project-based format. The K-8 program includes a focus on international learning, leadership, entrepreneurial development, arts and design thinking.

The Academy is the only school proposing to open in 2014; iLead and Pride Prep are projecting fall 2015 as start dates.

Spokane school district leaders have yet to review the applications, said Steven Gering, chief academic officer.

The Washington Charter School Commission received 18 applications, said Steven Sundquist, commission chairman.

“I think we were surprised in a very happy way that we got as much interest as we did,” he said. “Right now, I feel like we have a great variety. We have representation in several areas of the state. A lot of folks are interested in serving at-risk children, so we are very pleased with where we find ourselves right now.”

A Spokane Valley private school – Pioneer School – that serves K-4 gifted and talented students is among the applicants.

The nonprofit serves up to 60 students and has been in operation since 1980. The school uses a thematic approach to education by choosing four to six in-depth topics to study each year, which are the vehicle for learning other skills, such as math, science, spelling and social studies.

The new charter school law only allows eight charters to open each school year. Neither the state nor Spokane Public Schools, however, has to approve any of the applicants.

“It could be zero, one or two,” Gering said.

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