Charter commission approves expansions

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has approved plans from three charter school groups, which could provide 990 new charter school seats in the next several years.

About 11,400 students are on waiting lists to attend an Idaho charter school, according to the State Department of Education.

The commission approved the North Idaho STEM Academy‘s plan to expand its K-8 program into high school grades. The Rathdrum-based academy enrolls 312 students; under this agreement, it will grow to 724 students over the next nine years.

“This is something our parents really wanted and have been asking for since we opened in 2012,” said Colleen Thomson, the academy’s co-founder and director of instruction.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Network

The commission approved the expansion because of the academy’s academic success, quality governance and administration, strong community support, and responsible fiscal performance, said Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Sage International School, an International Baccalaureate school in downtown Boise, has approval to expand student enrollment from 712 students to 1,200. SAGE recently was awarded a $350,000 J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation grant to grow its K-12 school model.

“Our wait list has made it very clear to us that we had to figure out ways to serve more students and families,” said board chair Suzanne Metzgar. “We are excited that the commission supports our efforts to expand our quality program for more kids.”

The commission also expanded the Syringa Mountain charter school’s enrollment cap by more than 90 students. Syringa Mountain will open in Blaine County in 2014-15 as a K-5 school.

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News is funded by a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

  • Adolph Connard

    While the Charter School choice is meeting with mixed results, one thing seems to be consistent throughout the country; Demand exceeds supply.

    In this particular article, 11,400 await an opportunity to fill 990 seats. Basically, a ten to one ratio of demand to supply.

    I would be curious to know if there are any common themes to why so many would seek the Charter Alternative over the existing public school. Are they being asked/polled? Is there public data available?

  • Ed DePriest

    Mr. Connard:
    I am sure that most teachers in Idaho public schools are dedicated to their kids and are more than qualified to provide high level education to any and all students who desire and are willing to work for one. As I am sure is also true throughout the state, there are public school students who demonstrate my previous statement by qualifying for and attending colleges that range from Ivy league to state, to private, to community colleges. If students and their parents take advantage of the opportunities offered by the public schools, they can have the highest quality education.
    What I hear and see, as it relates to public v. charter, is the environment. Charter’s do not have to keep students who are disruptive, disrespectful, and who interfere with the learning opportunity of others. Involved parents want their children to be in an environment where the teacher can teach, instead of directing so much time and attention towards students who are not in school to learn. Charter schools are able to be more focused on education, while public schools are more-and-more being required to be day care centers for children and parents who do not see school as an academic learning opportunity. If a child in the Charter does not meet academic and behavior standards, where do they go? They go back to the public school, which has to take and deal with them.
    I see a three tier system coming: Private for the wealthy; charter for the serious student, and public for the rest.