William E. Doar Jr. charter school struggles with waitlist shuffle

Teachers and administrators at William E. Doar Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts expected to welcome 550 students on the first day of classes this fall.

Instead, only 325 kids showed up.

Since then, the school — which serves grades pre-k through 8 in Northeast — has been actively recruiting, and enrollment is up to 407.

“And we’re still actively recruiting,” John Manahan, the school’s chief operating officer, said at a D.C. Public Charter School Board meeting Monday night.

This is the waitlist shuffle in action.

Every fall, thousands of kids move from one school to another long after classes begin. The problem is that students can (and do) enroll in more than one charter, relinquishing their seats only when they have to: on the first day of school.

Then waitlists begin to move as charter administrators scramble to fill their rolls. Each student is worth thousands of tax dollars.

Manahan said the enrollment turmoil has been stressful for his school’s employees, who know that the budget picture is looking grim.

“Everyone knows the writing is on the wall,” he said.

Scott Pearson, the charter board’s executive director, called Doar’s plight a stark example of the problems with the waitlist shuffle.

“I can’t imagine the turmoil that has wreaked on your budgeting and your staffing,” Pearson said.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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