Charter school gets part-time reprieve
A small, reserved group of charter school students and parents were present at this week's school board meeting to find out if the board had changed its mind about closing the school for next year. They were pleased to hear that the students' needs will be met and supported by the district.
Supt. James White recommended in his personnel report during executive session at the April 9 board meeting that the charter of the school not be renewed for next year. One teacher would be shifted to the junior high and the other teacher remain at the high school and provide half-time support for the special-needs students.
After hearing about this decision, a large and vocal delegation of parents and students from the charter school attended the April 16 school board meeting to voice their displeasure over the possible closing of the school.
After the board listened to their concerns, it added the charter school issue to the agenda for the May 14 meeting. During the period leading up to this week's meeting, Supt. White talked with parents, administrators, teachers and board members to come up with a solution to meet the students' needs.
"We need to be flexible to meet the needs of students so they can get through school without dropping out," White said.
This was a big issue for the students at the April 16 meeting, as they felt they couldn't finish schooling without the support and atmosphere of the charter school.
Sally Hoffsommer-Brecheisen, lead teacher at the charter school, will devote half time or three hours a day to the charter school. Two other teachers, Tom Sigvaldson and Carol Landis, will provide additional support for the students. But the students will be required to attend all classes at the high school, not in a separate location.
"We feel positive this will be something that will work for the students," White said.
The plan is to make sure that each student gets what they need to meet graduation requirements.
"It's wonderful to keep the school going," said Sandy Floersch, parent of two charter school students, "but I feel there's discrimination here to limit it to high school graduation requirements."
The board clarified that each student and parent(s) will meet with the lead teacher of the charter school and the high school principal to develop individual curriculum plans for next year. Classes required for graduation may not be typical ones, but individualized for the students' needs.
"They entered the charter school in good faith," said Allen Poplin, newly appointed high school principal, "and we want to continue that. Some of the students work, and we want to make that a part of the plan."
Some charter school students had questions about how this new plan affected full-time students in the program.
"You will be enrolled in regular classes and in charter school classes," said White.
"Will the kids be penalized for doing their schedules last?" asked Debbie Steinbach, another parent, worried that charter school students wouldn't have a good choice of classes next fall. She also was concerned that they receive the course credits they need.
"We're not penalizing them," said White. "We're making a commitment to their needs. We're prepared to give proper credit for all classes."
"We do recognize this as a good program," said Ed Schulte, board president. "We're making sure not to pull services away from these students. It has some elements of a charter school, an alternative school, and support services. We want to make sure the students get what they need."
Steinbach asked when the individual planning sessions would be held. She wanted to be present.
The planning sessions will start as soon as they can be scheduled and completed before the school year ends.
"Whatever it is that the student needs, we'll all sign off on the plan," said Poplin, meaning the student, parent(s), Hoffsommer-Brecheisen and himself.
"We're committed to this," said White. "We want to provide the support for the students. If that's the charter school or a different kind of support system, we'll provide that."
White also reported that the district would submit an application for additional funding for the charter school for the year after next. There were 16 students in the program this year, and seven to 10 students are projected for next year.
Floersch asked the board about implementing the Plato program of individualized instruction, which doesn't require a teacher. Plato's comprehensive curriculum is aligned with national tests, including Kansas standards. Interactive, individualized instruction is available in math, reading, writing, science and life skills.
"It is a piece of the technology puzzle we're looking at," said White. "It could be used by all students in the upper grades. We're also looking for software for the elementary reading level. A site license for the Plato software costs $30,000."
"We do recognize this as a good program," Schulte said about Plato. "One issue of the charter school is to find new avenues of teaching."
For more on Plato, check out the Web site: www.plato.com/kansas.