New year brings more schools, charter growth

At least eight new schools popped up across Idaho to start this school year and half are public charters.

There are now 57 charters in Idaho serving approximately 22,000 students.

Exact enrollment numbers for this school year are not yet available, but according to last year’s enrollment charter schools hosted 7.6 percent of the state’s 302,332 students in grades K-12.

“It’s an interesting time for new schools in Idaho because of all the growth,” said Terry Ryan, CEO of Bluum, a Boise nonprofit that supports school innovation.

Charters are publicly funded and open to any student. Enrollment is often awarded with a lottery as some 6,000 students are on waitlist, said Ryan. There is no cap on the number of charters under Idaho law — which was established 20 years ago.  At least four more charters are expected to open in 2019 in Caldwell, Fruitland, Hayden and Middleton.

“New school options are good,” Ryan said. “It is what parents want.”

Most charters reside in Ada County. Here is a breakdown of charter school enrollment by county:

  • Ada: 8,305
  • Canyon: 4,738
  • Bonneville: 1,599
  • Kootenai: 1,423

“The rural areas are a challenge because of enrollment,” Ryan said.

In an Idaho Education News 2017 survey “The People’s Perspective,” Idahoans said they support charters and most believe charters to be better than the regular public schools by a two-to-one margin. Idaho charters are among the state’s lowest-performing schools and highest-performing.

Bluum is currently accepting applications for its Idaho New School Fellowship — a two-year  program focused on planning, developing and launching a unique public school in an Idaho community.

Here’s a glance at Idaho’s newest charter schools

Future Public School

  • Location: Garden City
  • Enrollment: 226
  • Theme of school: STEM education and college preparatory curriculum
  • Grades: K-3, adding a grade each year until grade 8

Gem Prep: Meridian

  • Location: Meridian
  • Enrollment: 288
  • Theme of school: Blended learning (combining small group instruction along with adaptive technology) and personalized learning
  • Grades: K-6, adding a grade each year until grade 12

Project Impact STEM Academy

  • Location: Kuna
  • Enrollment: 293
  • Theme of school: Mastery and project-based STEM education
  • Grades: K-7 and 9

Peace Valley Charter School

  • Location: Boise
  • Enrollment: 310
  • Theme of school: A Waldorf education model
  • Grades: K-8

Other new schools

  • Stricker Elementary School, Kimberly
  • Thunder Ridge High School, Idaho Falls
  • Jefferson School District early childhood center, Rigby
  • Star Middle School, Star

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed research to this report. 

Disclosure: Bluum and Idaho Education News are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

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