A new charter school should open next fall after the Redwood City Elementary School District Board of Trustees approved the proposal from local parents last night.
Earlier this summer, Connect Community Charter School submitted a proposal to the district in hopes of opening a school on the east side of town that features shared leadership, social-emotional learning and an inquiry-based approach. On Tuesday, the petitioners approved the proposed memorandum of understanding. On Wednesday, the board also voted to move forward. Now, Connect supporters can start raising funds, publicizing the new school in hopes of generating enrollment and looking for a home to open the new school.
"It’s a unique opportunity but also a unique model that we don’t have. As a school district of choice, it does offer an opportunity for our school district and parents,” said Superintendent Jan Christensen. Trustees agreed with the superintendent. Trustee Shelly Masur thanked the petitioners for their responsiveness and expressed excitement about the possibilities of working together.
Trustee Dennis McBride added it appears both parties have the goal of making a positive impact on children.
"I’m in total support of this. I’m convinced they will support all kids,” he said.
Trustee Alisa MacAvoy was excited to see the social-emotional focus, which could be something from which the district could learn. Trustee Maria Diaz-Slocum agreed and added having another choice will benefit the children served in the district since children learn differently. Connect Community Charter School’s 118-page petition outlines plans 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 recommended approval despite some concerns about the school’s financial viability during a time of continuous state budget cuts.
Connect’s program calls for integrating social and emotional learning. The program would allow students to work with the same teacher for two consecutive years to build a relationship. 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, the school’s founders aim 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 will 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.
Since the petition was approved, Connect will 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.
To learn more about Connect Community Charter School visit www.connectrwc.org.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.