The group vying to open a new charter school for pre-kindergarteners through eighth-graders in Novato celebrated a positive jolt Wednesday when it received word of support from the California Department of Education.
According to a release from the North Bay Educational Foundation, which wants to open a school called the North Bay Academy somewhere in Novato in time for the 2013-14 school year, said its grant application scored well — 49 out of 56 points — in grading from the state. The foundation requested a $375,000 grant over three years for planning and implementation of the school.
"Our final hurdle in obtaining this grant lies in the review of our budget, which we believe will also pass muster with the state of California,” Robert Verhoeff, NBEF board member, said in the release.
The Novato Unified School District has not rendered a decision on the foundation's petition to open the school, which would follow the Core Knowledge system of teaching. NUSD has the subject on its agenda for Dec. 11 and plans to either approve or deny the petition on Dec. 18. If it is denied, the foundation could appeal to the Marin County Office of Education or go straight to a state educational board.
The charter school effort is facing some stiff opposition from people who believe opening a new school will hurt other public schools in the district and ultimately cost the district too much money to maintain. The anti-charter effort is being led by the Save Our Novato Schools grassroots group, which has stated that such a school is not needed in Novato.
Two advocacy groups voiced opposition to the petition because of concerns about the isolation of minority kids, and the Marin Independent Journal published an editorial against approval of the charter. And on Tuesday, NUSD finance director Karen Maloney said the district's net loss from creating a new charter school would be just short of $1.4 million.
"They are looking for good news at the moment," Ross Ingels, a co-founder of Save Our Novato Schools, said of the foundation. "Our focus is that we don't feel this is the best thing for the district and the community, and we believe our opposition is gaining support."
The state graded the grant application on the charter management plan, educational programming, community and parent involvement, sustainability and alignment of resources, notification and admissions, targeted capacity building activities and autonomy.
MJ Lonson, foundation board member and co-founder of the effort to open a second charter school in Novato, said the competition for charter grants is intense and state support is a welcomed sign.
"Scoring highly against all seven criteria is a testament to the quality of the charter school application for North Bay Academy and its supporters, educators and leaders,” she said in the release.
According to the NBEF, the Core Knowledge curriculum model is "an innovative, research-based, carefully designed program that has a proven record of equipping all students with the academic skills and personal values they need to compete in the areas of communication, fine arts, technology, mathematics and scientific innovation."