Two new public charter schools are slated to open this fall after the Iowa Board of Education granted conditional approval Thursday.
The state must sign contracts for the Hamburg Community School District, a 133-student district near the Nebraska-Missouri border, and Jordahl Academy, a private online school, in the next 30 days.
The charters are being created under the state’s newly expanded Charter Schools Act. The law was part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ sweeping education agenda during the 2021 legislative session. The two groups were the only applicants. The short application period is held responsible for the lack of applicants. Charter school supporters say they expect more organizations to apply over the next year after the process is established.
For subscribers:Kim Reynolds wanted more charter schools in Iowa. But only two groups have applied to open it.
Choice Charter expects to enroll 300 students from across the country in its first year, and approximately 30 students have expressed interest in Hamburg’s program.
“We applaud the governor for going into this charter school arena,” said Hamburg Superintendent Mike Wells.
What is a charter school?
Charter schools are free public schools that operate outside of the traditional school district system.
Because charters receive public funding, schools are subject to many of the same standards of accountability as public schools, such as: B. Federally mandated standardized tests. Unlike district-run schools, charters have their own board of directors and may request that some state requirements be waived if they feel it can improve student learning.
More:New charter schools could be coming to Iowa as early as August 2022, according to the State Board of Education’s schedule
This is the case with the Hamburg Charter. The State Council approved the district’s motion to waive the requirements for fine arts, foreign languages, and physical education.
Students still have the opportunity to take these courses, Wells said.
As of Thursday, Iowa’s only charter schools were high schools in Storm Lake and Maynard.
Hamburg aims to restore the grammar school
The Hamburg school district went to the school board for the third time on Thursday to have its high school reinstated, said Wells.
The district has been without a high school since around 2015 when Nishnabotna Junior-Senior High School in Farragut closed. The facility was closed due to financial problems in both districts.
The idea unveiled Thursday is similar to the plan county officials presented to the state the last time it was asked to restore the high school, Wells said.
Charter School Hamburg strives for its students to graduate with a diploma and certificate or an associate’s degree. During the summer, high school students are given the opportunity to do paid internships.
“We are very excited about the opportunity. It provides career and technical training for kids and is so important in our workforce,” Wells said after the meeting. “And especially[in]Southwest Iowa, where there’s a lot of poverty.”
Related:Iowa is one step closer to opening more charter schools. You can find out what this means for families here
Choice Charter to offer a mentoring program for students
Choice Charter caters to high school dropouts who want to earn a high school diploma. The online school is initially open to juniors and seniors. It will also accept older students up to the age of 21. The goal of overtime is to serve ninth through twelfth grade students.
Because the charter is online, students can apply anywhere in the state.
Online charter schools have faced a variety of problems over the years, including low graduation rates and student achievement.
During the 2016-17 school year, “three-quarters of the students enrolled in virtual charters attend a high school from which less than half graduate in four years,” a Education Week’s analysis of federal data from 2019 showed.
Related:Iowa just released ratings for all of its public schools. You can find your school’s rating here.
Choice Charter will have a mentorship program to help students succeed, said Cynthia Knight, Jordahl Academy chief executive officer. The mentors are on site and meet with the students several times a week to work on setting goals.
“We have the mentoring piece that other online schools don’t have… We put that support in there because we know these kids need extra support and they need someone by their side,” Knight said.
Samantha Hernandez covers the training for the registry. Reach them at (515) 851-0982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or Facebook at facebook.com/svhernandezreporter.