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  • Staff file photo
    Rebecca Fredrickson and Karin Cevasco talk to one another in Fredrickson's studio in Mill 5 in the Nashua Millyard on Thursday, Jan. 19. 2012. Cevasco and Fredrickson presented their application for a charter school called Gate City Charter School for the Arts to the state Board of Education in Concord on Jan. 20, 2012.
Monday, January 23, 2012

Planners for arts charter school in Nashua start approval process

NASHUA – After a year of sharpening the details of their dream, two parents recently took a big first step toward making an arts-focused charter school in the city a reality.

Karin Cevasco and Rebecca Fredrickson met with state education officials Friday in the first of three steps toward securing permission to open the Gate City Charter School for the Arts in the fall of 2013.

Cevasco and Fredrickson spent last week putting the last touches on their charter school application and all other necessary paperwork before their meeting in Concord. They were happy and nervous.

“We’re a little anxious and excited,” Cevasco said. “We’re looking forward to hearing their feedback.”

Cevasco and Fredrickson have worked for about a year researching and preparing their plan after being dissatisfied with the lack of attention to the arts in public schools.

After the meeting Friday with the charter school office at the state Department of Education, officials will review Gate City’s application for about 60 days before providing feedback. If revisions are required, Cevasco, Fredrickson and other parents who have become part of the team will work on them and then await approval.

If they pass that hurdle, they will then meet with the state education commissioner, Virginia Barry. The last step is approval by the state Board of Education.

Gate City would be an option to parents in the Nashua area who want to send their children to a school that would integrate arts into the instruction of the core academic subjects.

Public schools typically have art class only once a week, and instruction is separate from the general curriculum, Cevasco said. She and Fredrickson want their charter school to have the arts – music, theater and art – as a common thread in tying together math, reading, science and other traditional subjects.

As they planned the many details of the school, Cevasco and Fredrickson started to gain the help of other parents who have the same desire to focus academics around the arts.

Betsy Moore is one such parent. Her son attends White Wing School, where Cevasco and Fredrickson also have children attending, and Moore learned about the preparation to start Gate City School for the Arts.

Moore is the financial whiz of the group. Cevasco has a background in early childhood education, and Fredrickson is involved in the arts community and has experience working in nonprofit organizations.

As part of their application to the state, Moore prepared an operating budget for the school.

The overall cost of operating the school – including rent, salaries and supplies – for the first year is $707,000, Moore said. That first year, the school will have five teachers and be open to kindergarten and grades 1 through 4.

Each year after opening, the school plans to add another grade level until it reaches eighth grade. That last year of growth, with a budget forecast of 160 students and nine teachers, the operating cost would be $853,000, Moore said.

The nonprofit City Arts Nashua is the school’s sponsor, a necessary step in the application process, Fredrickson said. The organization would eventually help Gate City appoint a board of trustees, she said.

The Andres Institute of Art in Brookline and Nashua Symphony Orchestra have also written letters of support, Fredrickson said.

Cevasco said she and Fredrickson couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of the many parents like Moore who have helped prepare the application.

Independently run charter schools have no geographic boundaries for attendance; children can attend any such school regardless of where they live. Because it is publicly funded, there is no tuition.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.