No charter schools in offing on North Olympic Peninsula

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Voters statewide approved allowing charter schools, but so far no one has contacted any of the nine North Olympic Peninsula school districts with an interest in starting one.

Port Angeles Superintendent Jane Pryne said there needs to be a certain number of students before a charter school can run efficiently.

“About 80 percent of the expense of running a school is in staffing,” Pryne said.

Staffing doesn’t just include teachers but also maintenance staff and administrators, she said.

Like the eight other Peninsula superintendents, Pryne said the charter school process is embryonic, but she has not heard of anyone expressing interest in starting a charter school in the Port Angeles area.

Initiative 1240 passed across the state, with 50.68 percent approving and 49.32 percent opposing.

Clallam County voters liked the measure 53.87 percent to 46.13 percent.

In Jefferson County, voters rejected it, 52.87 percent to 47.13 percent.

According to the initiative, charter schools can be operated by nonprofit corporations that are not sectarian or religious in nature.

Charter schools must be open to all students, can only limit admission based on age group, grade level or capacity of the school, and will be subject to supervision by the state superintendent of public instruction and the state Board of Education.

Most of those charter schools — as many as eight per year, or 40 by 2017 —are expected to be located in large, urban school districts, such as Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia, the Peninsula school superintendents agreed.

There is still a lot to do before anyone can even consider a charter school, said Sequim Superintendent Kelly Shea.

“We’re still trying to get our hands around it,” he said.

There are still a lot of questions out there about how the schools would operate, possible lawsuits and how the charter commission will work, he said.

At this point, Shea said he has not heard of any interest in a charter school in Sequim.

Similarly, there is no talk of a charter school in Forks, said Quillayute Valley School District’s Superintendent Diana Reaume.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be any interest in the future,” she said.

“There needs to be a critical mass to create a student body,” said Superintendent David Engle of the Port Townsend School District.

There simply aren’t enough students in the smaller, more rural areas of the state to support a charter school, Engle said.

“I haven’t heard of anything,” said Wally Lis, joint superintendent of the Quilcene and Brinnon school districts.

“Over the years there have been conversations — ‘what if’ — but nothing specific,” Lis said.

Past conversations haven’t translated into any kind of recent buzz about the possibility of a charter school in the Quilcene or Brinnon, he said.

At the opposite end of the Peninsula, Superintendent Kandy Ritter of the Cape Flattery School District agreed.

“I haven’t heard any conversation about it in our community,” Ritter said.

Another reason for a lack of discussion of charter schools could be that small districts often offer many of the advantages that charter schools are created for, said Crescent School District Superintendent Clayton Mork in Joyce.

Small class sizes, personalized attention, a safe school community and being welcoming for parents in the classroom are all aspects that small districts already have, he said.

Engle said he thinks that it is unlikely that the home-school community as a group will become directly involved in the formation of a charter school.

“There is a lot of diversity among home-schoolers,” Engle said.

Each family chooses to home school for different reasons, often preferring different educational models, he explained.

Some never want their children to step foot in a classroom, while others take advantage of their children’s right to take part in some public school sports and other activities.

“To start a school, they need to have some agreement,” he said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 26. 2012 6:22PM
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