Charter board reverses itself on DC Prep expansion plans

In a stunning move, the DC Public Charter School Board reversed course and voted to approve the two charter amendments for expansion for DC Prep PCS to add an elementary and middle school that it just rejected during its April meeting.  In fact, the entire exercise was exceptionally strange in that the decision to consider this item was added at the last minute by board vice chair Don Soifer as amendments to the evening’s agenda.

Obviously, the dramatic change in heart came because in the face of public criticism the board realized that it had rejected a charter’s replication request due to concerns over a higher than average out-of-school student suspension rate which is not one of the established criteria used to make this decision.  It didn’t hurt that DC Prep’s Emily Lawson, the founder and chief executive officer, provided a passionate and rational explanation of the reasons behind suspensions at the school together with the fact that among the representatives of the school was Michela English, a DC Prep board member who it was announced would become chair in the fall.  Ms. English, is of course, the recently retired C.E.O. and president of Fight for Children.  The video of their presentation is definitely worth watching.

All board members agreed that Anacostia middle school should be allowed to open.  By a four to three vote, the same ratio that a couple of months ago turned down these charter amendments, the new elementary school as also approved.

In other business, although there was way too much discussion taking up way too much time, a full complement of DC Public Charter School Board members voted Monday night to greatly expand additional numbers of high quality seats available to students living in the District of Columbia.  In fact, it was like traveling back in time to see once again this body approving charter amendment requests unanimously, which stood in stark contrast to recent ballots among the group.

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS, now in its nineteenth year, got the green light to open a second campus serving pre-Kindergarten through fifth graders in the 2018 to 2019 school year.  Enrollment at the charter will grow from its student body of 350 scholars to 750 students by the 2023 to 2024 term.  There are currently 1,595 kids on its admissions wait-list.

KIPP DC PCS is allowed to add 900 pupils, growing to an astonishing population of 7,484 by the 2024 to 2025 school year.  It will do so in part by adding a second high school beginning in the 2019 to 2020 term. The 2017 wait-list to get into one of this charter management organization’s 16 campuses in the nation’s capital is 2,430 students.  One of the highlights of the testimony from Susan Schaeffler, the school’s founder and chief executive officer, is that KIPP will back-fill all grades for which it has space, although this might not be possible for a student wanting to enter the twelfth grade due to having to fulfill graduation credit requirements.

Most of the night’s conversation revolved around Mundo Verde PC’s request to replicate, adding a second campus of 600 pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade pupils to its current student body of 635 kids beginning in the 2018 to 2019 school year.  The charter is only in its six year of operation but already has a wait-list of 1,435 pupils.  In the end the charter amendment was approved with the condition that the school be accredited by the time of the expansion.

All of this is extremely good news for parents wanting to get their children into one of these stellar programs, but as is obvious, the new seats in no way keep up with demand.




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