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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nashua School District seeks to open charter school

NASHUA – School administrators will propose moving forward with the creation of a district-sponsored charter school.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said he would put forward the recommended mission for the charter school to the Board of Education at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Nashua High School North.

The board would have to approve moving forward with the process and, ultimately, the school itself.

The board would then oversee the operations of the school and be responsible for making sure it was meeting its charter.

Conrad was hesitant to release details of what the proposed school would look like before speaking with board members, but said a charter school should be a place where innovative ways of teaching can be explored.

“The advantage of this process is we could begin thinking from the ground up about new approaches to education,” Conrad said.

Conrad will recommend that a committee of teachers, administrators, parents and board members spend the next year developing the charter.

If the district were to open a charter school, Nashua students would receive preference before those in other communities, he said.

Since receiving an $11.6 million federal grant to help start new charter schools, state education officials have been looking to districts such as Nashua and Manchester to put forward proposals.

Charter schools can either be created by an independent group or be sponsored by a school district.

Nashua would be eligible for up to $600,000 from the federal grant to help with startup costs, said Roberta Tenney, who oversees charter schools for the state Department of Education.

There are 10 public charter schools in the state, including the Academy for Science and Design in Merrimack.

There’s also the Virtual Learning Academy, which provides online courses to students across the state. Students either take individual classes or enroll as full-time students.

There is no tuition for charter schools. They receive a per-pupil stipend from the state, and if more students apply than there are spots, a lottery must be held.

However, some have certain admissions requirements.

For example, the Merrimack school has an exam students must pass to be accepted.

Tenney said Pembroke is the only other district so far to move forward with a district-sponsored charter school.

The state Board of Education would have to approve the Nashua school, as well, she said.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.