Monday, August 13, 2007

Charter Gets OK, But Board Wants Rent

Posted by Greg Hambrick on Mon, Aug 13, 2007 at 8:26 PM

The School Board gave unanimous approval to the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science on Monday night, though it plans to charge rent for the school to use the Rivers campus.

The charter group has been meeting for more than a year to develop the public school that would have curriculum designed by parents and instructors, not the district.

“I have seen the drain of students leaving downtown schools because of dissatisfaction,” says District 20 (Peninsula) Constituent Board member Joe Green, a charter school supporter.

With key state approval already in hand, the charter school could hardly be denied board approval and, after community members overwhelmingly supported the charter’s use of the Rivers campus, that really wasn’t a decision either.

But the district’s recommendation came with a stipulation that the district charge the charter to use the Rivers building at a rate based on the average of $11.28 per sq. ft. charged to other charter schools that rent space in the private sector. That rate would put the rent at more than $300,000 a year.

Superintendent Nancy McGinley was nice enough to suggest a fee that’s “at a reduced rate,” but parents developing the school argued that this requirement is extraordinary when compared to other charter schools using district facilities.

“All students attending a public school should be treated equally,” says Carol Aust. “No other public school in this county pays more than $1 in rent.”

McGinley noted that the district has only provided facilities when a charter school is converted from an existing public school. It’s never provided facilities for a start-up.

“We believe that by approving these recommendations the board will put the district on sound financial footing as we engage in future partnerships,” she says. “We recognize that space is a challenge for charter schools and we do not want to impede success.”

Board member Brian Moody says that the question about losing district space is valid, but he voted against the measure, seeking a more equitable rate.

“I don’t think anyone wants to break the charter school,” he says.

Councilman Hillery Douglas was the lone vote against the charter using the Rivers building.

“I think there’s a greater need at Rivers to produce some vocational training for our kids,” he says.

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