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Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 1:54 p.m.

Spokane likely to authorize first charter school

SEATTLE— The Spokane School District appears likely to authorize Washington state’s first charter school on Wednesday.
A board committee has endorsed Pride Prep— one of three applicants to open a charter school within district borders— and the board will finalize its choice with a vote Wednesday evening.
District spokesman Kevin Morse said Tuesday the whole process has been seamless, businesslike and with no negative comments aimed at the district or the applicants.
“From the district standpoint, it has gone extremely smoothly,” Morse said.
The Washington State Charter Schools Commission, which is running a parallel process involving many more applicants and public hearings, has also run smoothly, but acrimony in Seattle affected at least one public hearing.
The statewide charter authorizing commission is expected to announce its decision about its first charters at a Jan. 30 meeting in Seattle. The Spokane School District is the only other organization approved for authorizing charter schools in this first round.
The state’s charter school system was approved by voters in 2012. Washington became the 42nd state to allow the independent public schools. More than 20 groups and individuals filed proposals to be among the first to open a charter school. The new state law would allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington over the next five years, with about eight each year.
Pride Prep is an organization led by a former Spokane middle school principal who wants to open a college prep middle and high school for children who are at risk of failing.
Brenda McDonald writes in the proposed school’s application that it would have a longer school day and a longer school year. Students would be required to take extra math and science and seven years of a foreign language.
The goal of the program is to move students toward attending a four-year college or university. It plans to open in fall 2015 with just sixth and seventh grades and add another grade level every year.
Eventually, the school wants to grow to teach an estimated 630 students, which would make it smaller than most of the state’s middle or high schools.
Community-building activities would be woven into the school day and school year, with student and teacher retreats and a morning activity called “morning launch” that will be run like a pep rally for education.
Morse said all three charter applicants were thoroughly vetted by school district officials and outside experts and went through a public comment period and a public hearing last week.
“There was no public outcry at all against either the applicants or the process,” he said.
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Contact Donna Blankinship at https://twitter.com/dgblankinship

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