Charter School in Talks to Join Regular System
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Hospitality High, a charter school that prides itself on preparing students for hotel and restaurant careers with hands-on training, doesn't have a teaching kitchen.
The school, which pays $24,000 a month to rent three floors of an office building in downtown Washington, buses its aspiring chefs to an Arlington nonprofit once a week for cooking classes. Sometimes they don't have a chance to taste the food they make, a student said.
After eight years of making do in a cramped location that also lacks a gym, cafeteria and storage space, the 179-student school could get what it has always wanted -- a real school building. But to get it, Hospitality would give up its charter school status to join the city school system. This would be the first time a D.C. charter school has become part of the regular D.C. school system, and experts say it could create a model for similar moves.
Voluntarily giving up a charter and joining a traditional public school system is rare, but it has happened in Colorado, Georgia and Ohio, generally because a charter school faced financial difficulties and wanted to avoid being shut down, said John Ayers, a spokesman for the National Association for Charter School Authorizers.
"Perhaps this is a glimpse of the future . . . in major cities, superintendents and school boards are beginning to see charters as having strategic value," Ayers said.
Hospitality's foundation is negotiating a deal with Superintendent Clifford B. Janey to move into underused space in Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in the Petworth section of Northwest Washington. The proposal calls for Hospitality to take up the entire third floor of Roosevelt and expand to 250 students. The D.C. Board of Education is scheduled to consider the proposal tomorrow.
Even though Hospitality would become part of the school system, it would retain its academic program, which has become known for its high graduation rate and the percentage of students going to college. The school would also keep its board of directors, hire the principal and teachers and continue to design and adjust its curriculum as it sees fit.
Roosevelt, which also offers hospitality training, would continue those classes, and the two schools would share the building's new commercial kitchen, bakery, cafe and simulated hotel lobby and front desk, all located in a renovated 9,000-square-foot wing. Currently Roosevelt has about 650 students enrolled, but it can hold almost twice that number, school officials said.
Hospitality officials said the decision was pragmatic.
"This is about a building, absolutely," said Emily Durso, president of the Hotel Association of Washington, the trade group that coordinates student internships and applied for the original charter.
"The school system has a building and space, and we have a great program," Durso said. "We're not going to change much of what we do. We're just doing it in a different place."
The school opened in 1999 as Marriott Hospitality High after school officials rejected the idea of starting a hospitality high school within the school system, said Durso, who was part of those conversations 15 years ago.