Fairfax charter school seeks approval from state board of education

Members of a state education committee indicated support Wednesday for the proposed Fairfax Leadership Academy, moving it one step closer to becoming Northern Virginia’s first charter school.

State board member Rob Krupicka praised Fairfax teacher Eric Welch and his team — most of whom are current or former Fairfax educators — for submitting a “thoughtful and exciting” proposal.

“You can assume that we are favorably inclined toward your application,” said Krupicka, who sits on the state charter-school committee.

Given such comments, the committee appears likely to recommend that the full state board endorse the academy in April. Then Fairfax’s local board, which has ultimate approval authority, will take up the issue.

“Overall we got what we wanted,” Welch said after the hearing. “It feels good to be moving through this step.”


JEB Stuart High School teacher Eric Welch leads a group of educators proposing a charter school in Fairfax. (Shamus Ian Fatzinger/Fairfax County Times )

At Wednesday’s hearing in Richmond, committee members urged Welch to continue working on two areas — gathering support from parents and nailing down details to show that the school is economically viable.

Welch said neither of those suggestions was a surprise, because he and his team wanted to begin the state approval process before selling the idea to parents or asking donors for money.

Welch hopes to qualify for a $600,000 federal grant for charter-school start-ups. He also believes the academy will be able to raise about $250,000 a year through corporate donations.

He said he and his team will begin doing more to spread the word about the academy in low-income communities. They also will continue trying to find ways to allay the concerns of parents at Falls Church High School.

They have opposed the charter school, arguing that it would siphon away students and delay renovation of Falls Church High, and their concerns are likely to help shape the local school board’s debate over whether to approve the Fairfax Leadership Academy.

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

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