Kent County is a unique place. It is considered part of “slower lower”, but the capital of the state is in Dover. All the major decisions about the state occur here, even though the majority of the population lives in Newcastle County. The schools in Kent County are also unique.
Seven school districts are in Kent County. Capital, Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest, and Polytech are all within the borders of Kent County. Smyrna overlaps into Newcastle County, while Woodbridge and Milford share district space with both Kent and Sussex . There are only four charter schools in Kent County: Academy of Dover, Campus Community, Providence Creek and Positive Outcomes. Of the four charters, their special education population is as follows:
Academy of Dover: 8.4% (26 out of 308)
Campus Community School: 9% (37 out of 411)
Providence Creek Academy: 4.4% (31 out of 697)
Positive Outcomes: 63.3% (76 out of 120)
Positive Outcomes is the exception to the rule when it comes to special education in Delaware. The school primarily serves students with special needs and behavior issues, so it is no surprise they would fully accommodate in those situations. The other three…that’s different. Both Academy of Dover and Campus Community have a high percentage of lower income and African-American students, so in that aspect, it doesn’t appear charter school enrollment preference affects income or race. But with a state average of 13.5-13.9% for special education, those numbers are much lower than their public school peers. So where are all the special needs children going? Certainly not Polytech, a vocational high school (the only school in that district). Their average is 9.3% (112 out of 1,206). So this would leave the public schools to deal with this student population.
Caesar Rodney: 13.6% (1,046 out of 7,677)
Capital: 17% (997 out of 6,442)
Lake Forest: 13% (479 out of 3,687)
Milford: 12.3% (507 out of 4,168)
Smyrna: 13.5% (697 out of 5,163)
I’m not going to include Woodbridge since most of the school district is within Sussex County.
So we can definitely see the public schools are taking in much higher populations of special needs children than the charter schools in the area. Why is this? Pretty much the same answer as the rest of the charters in the state. They don’t want them. This is why they put sections on their applications with questions like “Does your child have an IEP” or “Does your child have any special education needs”. They want to weed them out. Not including Positive Outcomes obviously, the other three charter schools have a total of 7 complex special education students, and they are all at Academy of Dover. Both Campus Community and Providence Creek Academy have NONE. I guess autistic children aren’t welcome there. What does FAPE stand for again?
Smyrna School District seems to take the bulk of special needs children in the area. The majority of students that go to Providence Creek reside in Smyrna, and then Capital. Since Providence Creek can only accommodate 26 special needs students, but the other 671 are “normal”, that must be an acceptable sacrifice for them. But hey, they should feel lucky. Their special education population actually went down from 4.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014. Less burden for them.
Further south in Kent County are the Caesar Rodney, Milford and Lake Forest districts. Some children from there go to the charters in Kent County, but the further south you go the less likely this is. Their special education numbers seem to be near the state average.
Capital School District’s special education numbers are much higher than everyone else. They also have the Kent County Community School, which serves the Delaware Autistic Program (DAP) for autistic students in grades K-12.
No new charter schools have opened in Kent County in many, many years, and that’s probably a good thing. I wouldn’t mind at all if Positive Outcomes opened a K-6 school. Maybe they can take over one of the other schools. In the meantime, parents of Kent County, I would be very wary about sending any special needs child to a charter school in Dover, unless it is Positive Outcomes. I have heard from parents who let one or two of their kids stay at a charter school but they send their special needs child to a public school. This must be a huge pain in the ass for these families. The charter school should be more than capable of handling a special needs child. The big lingering question is this- why aren’t they?