Local parents hoping to open a new charter school on the east side of Redwood City next fall have one last hurdle before really starting to plan — a vote by the Redwood City Elementary School District Board of Trustees.
Earlier this summer, Connect Community Charter School submitted a proposal to the district in hopes of opening a school that features shared leadership, social-emotional learning and an inquiry-based approach. On Wednesday, the board is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Both sides have, however, agreed to extend the deadline to vote. The board must take action on or before Sept. 11. If approved, as is recommended, the charter backers can get to work raising funds, starting enrollment and looking for a home to open the new school.
Before the board is a recommendation from Superintendent Jan Christensen to approve the proposal contingent on the two sides both approving a memorandum of understanding.
Whitney Wood, one of the 13 founders, was encouraged by the recommendations but was waiting for Wednesday’s vote before getting started on the work ahead. She added that working with the district thus far has been a thoughtful, collaborative experience which those at Connect hope to continue.
The proposal for Connect Community Charter School outlines a plan to operate on the east side of town with a focus on social-emotional learning and inquiry-based learning that would, at capacity, serve 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. First heard by the board in June, district staff and charter backers worked together over the summer to clarify details. Also, the district had the financial aspects of the charter proposal analyzed by School Services of California, Inc.
Ultimately, Christensen wrote, the district staff believes all items have been addressed or resolved. There are some concerns, however, about the school’s financial viability during a time of continuous budget cuts from the state.
"District staff believes that petitioners have a financial plan in place to pursue options to secure financial operations of the charter school as necessary,” Christensen wrote. "District staff also believes that the proposed charter school program presents a unique and beneficial opportunity to provide an additional school to residents of the district.”
The 118-page petition took more than a year for the 13 founders — most of whom live in the district and are parents — to put together. Four of the founders presented an overview of the principles for the program.
Connect’s program calls for integrating social and emotional learning. The program would allow children to build a relationship with teachers by having students work with the same teacher for two consecutive years. Daily curriculum would include visual arts and physical education. Opportunities for hands-on service learning with the community would be offered. Connect would participate in mandated state tests and include a teacher-led professional learning community through a shared governance model.
As proposed, Connect Community Charter School founders aims to open in the 2013-14 school year with 25 students in kindergarten, first and second grades and 50 students in sixth grade. In the years to come, one grade would be added to the elementary and middle school section until the fourth school year, 2016-17, when the campus would be at capacity with 300 students.
If the petition is approved, Connect would most likely make a Proposition 39 request to access facilities. Since the school isn’t starting at full capacity, it would most likely use a number of classrooms at an existing district site to start.
Currently, the district does not have any charter schools.
Previously, Garfield School was a charter school sponsored by the Redwood City Elementary School District. It was the state’s 49th charter school in 1994. In February 2009, the Garfield Charter Board voted unanimously not to renew the school’s charter and return to the district.
The board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29 at the District Office, 750 Bradford St. Redwood City. To read the full charter petition visit the district’s website www.rcsd.k12.ca.us or the school’s website www.connectrwc.org.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.