Educators looking at middle-school, charter programs

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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More charter schools may be coming to Loomis. The Loomis Union School District is floating the idea of making Loomis Grammar School a charter school and adding a middle-years charter program at Franklin Elementary School. Both would use the International Baccalaureate program. “We’re in the exploration and committee stage right now,” said Paul Johnson, district superintendent. “Nothing is set in stone,” he added. He explained that those discussions have taken a “back seat” to budget development as the district has tried to cut over $1 million from its budget to reflect the state budget cuts. Parent meetings were held at Loomis Grammar School and at Franklin Elementary School to discuss the charter school idea. Michelle Ferreira, of Loomis, will have two children in the middle-school grades next year at Franklin School where a new program may be implemented. “I agree we need to have change, I just don’t know if this is the right one. I have a lot questions,” she said. Johnson said the state provides different funding for charter schools and that in this district it is a higher amount per student. He also said that charter schools have opportunities for additional funding for start-up costs, construction and foreign-language teachers. During a district-wide budget meeting held for parents, he said that charter schools draw students from outside the district, bringing in new revenue, which is especially important for a district like Loomis with declining enrollment. Franklin parents expressed concerns about how students could participate in the district’s before-school music and after-school sports programs as charter school days begin earlier and end later than the other district schools. District teachers seem to support the idea of an International Baccalaureate program, but are concerned with the charter school approach. According to Franklin teacher Bill Scott, “there are still a lot of unanswered questions.” Scott said some educators are worried that charter school teachers might not be part of their union and that they will “lose their collective bargaining influence.” According to Johnson, the Loomis Basin Charter School, which opened in August 2008, will have classes up to fifth grade next year, and has waiting lists for all grades, plus 150 students competing for two new kindergarten classes. He said there are a total of 300 students waiting for openings. He said the charter school kindergartens will each have 20 students, but there are 30 siblings of current students who have priority. A lottery will be held by April for the additional 10 spots. The charter school only had one fourth-grade class this year, but will add a second full class when the students move up to fifth grade. Eventually, the facility will house two classes of each grade up to grade eight. Johnson said he expects charter school discussions to resume later this month, once the district’s budget is approved.