The D.C. Public Charter School Board has given the green light for three new operators to open schools by fall 2016.
The board approved Breakthrough Montessori, an elementary school that will start with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students and intends to open in Ward 1; Washington Leadership Academy, a high school that will emphasize service learning and blended learning and hopes to open in Ward 7 or 8; and Goodwill Excel Center, a competency-based alternative high school for students older than 16 that aims to find a location near a Metro station in Ward 4, 5, 6 or 7.
“These new schools will help ensure every family can find a quality school that is right for their student,” Darren Woodruff, chair of the charter school board, said in a statement after the approvals Monday night.
The board approved the plans conditionally and outlined objectives that need to be met over the next year, including developing more detailed special-education plans and securing facilities.
An additional hurdle for the alternative high school will be to change D.C. policy, which awards credit based on time in class. The State Board of Education considered a policy change in December that would have allowed for alternative approaches of awarding credit to students who can demonstrate competency by passing a test or completing a project. Ultimately, the board delayed the vote, citing insufficient time for public discussion and amid questions about how the city can increase flexibility while maintaining rigor.
“We will be working closely with the State Board of Education to release competency-based graduation requirements before Goodwill Excel Center opens in fall 2016,” Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, deputy director for the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said in a statement Tuesday.
The announcement of three new charter schools comes as many District residents are urging the city to be more deliberate in the planning of new charter schools to prevent duplication of services and to make education investments more efficient.
“We are at a place where we feel oversaturated,” said Eboni-Rose Thompson, chair of the Ward 7 Education Council, which co-hosted an event to offer public comment about the proposed applications. “We are all feeling the crunch. What does it do to enrollments at other schools, and how does it affect the school community?”
The number of students enrolled in charter schools in the District has more than doubled during the past decade. The publicly funded, independently managed schools enroll 44 percent of the city’s public school students.
The charter board also has moved to shut down low-performing charter schools. In the past three years, 17 charter schools have been approved and 18 campuses have been closed. Charter board officials said they expect that the new schools will not add to the overall share of charter school students.
Scott Pearson, executive director of the charter board, encouraged the new charter operators to work with the deputy mayor for education to coordinate with the city’s other school plans.
The board received six applications this spring. It turned down two, and one was withdrawn.