Monday, January 23, 2012

Grace School Mayoral Academy -- First Reaction

OK, so, the application for the Grace School Mayoral Academy popped up on RIDE's site some time in the past few weeks. This is a Providence/North Providence school, run by the private Meeting Street school in South Providence. Meeting Street always seemed nice enough, as they say on their website:

We’re known for helping children with multiple and severe challenges, however, we also work with children who have minor delays.

In terms of the actual school, this is much more palatable than the Achievement First proposal, of more appropriate scale (esp. not in combination with AF), and generally few would have batted an eye at it as a regular charter school 15, 10 or even five years ago, especially when the district was exceeding its capacity to add schools.

Of course, having this proposal come from a mayor who is directly responsible for closing a bunch of PPSD schools puts the whole thing in a dim light.

We should probably think hard about the precedent of a charter school essentially within a private school, including mixed classrooms. Has anyone anywhere actually tried that anywhere or is this really "innovation?"

One thing I'm happy about is that it isn't a RIMA school, the charter holder will be a non-profit controlled by Meeting Street, which is less offensive than having a bunch of suburban jackass politicians and out of state wonks running a school in Providence.

Like the AFMA application, this one violates the legal requirement to provide an equal number of enrollments to each sending community. Basically North Providence (and Providence City Council) need to get a clear ruling on this issue. In particular, there is a much stronger motivation for a North Providence parent to sue over the issue -- because this is actually a significant opportunity to North Providence parents with special needs students.

By the straightforward application of the law, there would be 17 guaranteed spots per grade for N. Providence, making it much more likely that N. Providence students could get in. In one big pool, they'll be swamped by Providence parents in the lottery, both because of size and location (although at least the school is right off 95). But anyway, people sue to get resources for their special needs students all the time, so if this issue isn't resolved now I'd expect this from someone in North Providence within a couple years, which could dramatically change the cost and enrollment structure of both PVD mayoral academies.

Also, I guess it is legal to accept an application submitted December 23, 2011 for a charter school opening this fall, but the "deadline" was in March.

Projected size in year 8 is 306 students K-8. If 250 students come from Providence -- likely under the proposed lottery -- it would cost $3,500,000 a year (if it was at full scale this year).

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