The Virginia Board of Education conducted a first review of a Fairfax County charter school application on Thursday. The review, which was discussed during a regular Board of Education meeting, looked at a recommendation by the Board of Education’s Charter School Committee, which met with the applicant over the winter to work on application requirements.
“The Charter School Committee as a whole was very excited to see this application. It was well thought through,” said Board of Education member K. Rob Krupicka of Alexandria, who was appointed in 2009. “Two months in a row we’ve been able to bring forward charter school applications that really show what charter schools in Virginia ought to be about.”
J.E.B. Stuart High School teacher Eric Welch is leading an effort to establish a small charter school in the Falls Church area to bolster achievement among at-risk students. The proposal brought before the Board of Education on Thursday outlines plans for a school serving 450 students at full capacity in grades seven through 12. The school, which would be called the Fairfax Leadership Academy, would offer courses on career building skills and college prep, in addition to the standard curriculum, said Welch, who would serve as the school’s executive director and chair its board of directors.
Plans also call for longer school days — eight hours compared to seven in regular high schools — and a year-round academic calendar, raising the number of in-class days from 183 to 206. The planned opening date for the charter school is Aug. 12, 2013.
The Board of Education’s Charter School Committee said the application aligned with the board’s goals of expanding opportunities to learn and creating a sound policy for student success.
The Charter School Committee, however, did express two concerns.
“One was you can’t fully know the financials until the charter school has worked with their jurisdiction to evaluate their final budget… And the second one was the level of community involvement,” Krupicka said. “We ask them to really reach down and talk to the parents and the customers of the school… I’m overall very pleased that this application is going forward.”
Welch said community outreach was postponed at the request of the school system.
“The school district wanted us to be more managed with them before going out to the PTAs. We honored that,” he said, adding that the goal moving forward is to reach out to as many area residents as possible for input.
Final review of the application by the Virginia Board of Education is scheduled for April 26. Approval of a charter school application by the Board of Education does not mean the local school board would also approve the application.
Prior to the Board’s first review, several Fairfax County residents, including a few parents, spoke in support of the application saying it provided smaller classrooms and additional resources to at-risk students.
Welch was also on hand during Thursday’s review.
“Creating a charter school in Fairfax County is new but also represents some challenges,” Welch said. One of the misconceptions Fairfax Leadership Academy is trying to address, he said, is that the charter school would take money away from the public school system.
“Our purpose for creating this charter school is not to compete with the public school system,” Welch said, adding that the goal is to be an additional opportunity for students.
Fairfax Leadership Academy representatives are planning to host an informational meeting at Bailey’s Elementary School at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 28.