Delaware Design-Lab High School submitted a major modification application to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office to lower their enrollment again! This time they want to lower their enrollment by 26%.
I admire their tenacity, but sometimes you just have to realize there are too many charter schools in Northern New Castle County! I’m not saying they should give up but how long is this going to go on for? By failing to capitalize on their million dollar prize from XQ, they allowed their enrollment to drop to unsustainable levels. They just got a major modification approved two years ago to lower their enrollment and now they want to do it again.
They were supposed to be at 475 students this year. That was lowered from 600 students in 2016. Instead, they had 298. There is a reason no new charter applications have come in for New Castle County in three years. They couldn’t even get to their magic number of 380 students to be at 80% enrollment based on their September 30th count. They should be on formal review. They were before they even opened for low enrollment but they managed to squeak by. The only reason they aren’t is because of their XQ Super School prize. I’m sure they are planning to spend those funds wisely but if their aren’t enough students there, what’s the point? Apparently ten million bucks can get you a great many things except for actual students.
The rumor mill in Philadelphia is hearing Design-Lab wants to expand to the City of Brotherly Love. I wouldn’t call their original in The First State a resounding success if they can’t get the students.
In their application, the school has projected enrollment for the next four years. Their numbers don’t make much sense. As an example, they are looking to raise this year’s ninth graders (69) to 75 during their sophomore year. But then that jumps to 85 their junior year (because so many students transfer out junior year- insert sarcasm here). But then during their senior year, it dips back down to 75. For freshmen next year, they are projecting 100 students for that year. But that will drop down to 95 the next year. But inexplicably, the next year’s freshmen are projected at 100 but their sophomore year they will drop down to 90. I guess you have to make the numbers fit somehow. This is a far cry from their original charter application which was approved with 600 students by year four.
To see the major modification application, please see below:
Only one application came in for a new charter school this year in Delaware. It is the same one that applied last year but that school withdrew their application shortly after. Sussex Montessori School is going for it again this year.
The proposed school is looking for 260 students in grades K-3 and by year four they are hoping to have 455 students in K-6. There is only one charter school in Sussex County, Sussex Academy. There are some very familiar names in their founders list and interested parties with a board consisting of nine people. It sounds like they have their ducks in a row with this application.
What bothered me about their Executive Summary was this line:
It is clear that the traditional public schools are not working well for many children in Sussex County.
They based this on… what else… standardized test scores. We will NEVER learn, will we? This charter school isn’t even open and they are already assuming they can drive those Smarter Balanced test scores up. I know, whether you agree with this or not, you have to kiss the ring of the Delaware DOE by promising higher achievement on the not-so-Smarter Balanced Assessment. Shouldn’t there be more to education than this horrible measurement?
Sussex Montessori School does have three enrollment preferences in their application: siblings of students already enrolled, children of staff members, and children of the school’s founders.
The school is projecting a little less than 22% of their funding will come from local school districts for each year they are open.
To read the entire application and all the attachments, please go here. The leadership team of Sussex Montessori School will have their first meeting with the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee on January 24th.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is in a very tight spot. Very low enrollment is causing Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting to request a formal review of the charter school. The State Board of Education will consider the recommendation at their meeting on Thursday, January 18th.
A formal review in January. The timing on this is very interesting. If a charter school doesn’t have 80% of their enrollment by the Spring, they can go on formal review for that. They should have gone on formal review for low enrollment for a long time. But when they failed to hit those enrollment numbers in their September 30th count, that can no longer be ignored.
For Delaware charter schools, this school does have a very unique purpose, to promote public safety and security (thus the name). It is such an exact niche for students. Perhaps it was a bit too specific. Enrollment has steadily been going down for years. It would take a miracle for them to get their enrollment up to at least 80% in the middle of a school year. Low enrollment causes charters to lose a lot of money to the point where they are no longer financially viable.
This will be the first formal review in two years. The last was Delaware STEM Academy who never opened due to low enrollment numbers.