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“No Change” Charter Update

April 6, 2017

Please join us for a “No Change” charter forum on April 10th at 6:30 PM.

There is a lot of buzz around the community concerning the ongoing discussion about the Alsea School District becoming a Charter School District. We thank everyone who attended the first Charter Forum, came to the board meeting, called or stopped by to ask questions, or provided feedback in other ways. Community input is important to this project. This information is aimed at clarifying what the school and board are proposing and provide background information.

“No Change Charter” – Becoming a charter school/ district provides endless options for change, and we know change is hard. At this time, the school is asking the board to review a “No Change” option. What does “No Change” actually mean? With the draft charter application that is being proposed:

  1. Teacher qualification standards will remain as they are today. Teachers will be required to meet the same requirements for licensure as teachers in other public school districts around the state.
  2. The current board of directors will remain in place and function as always.[1]
  3. Transportation costs will be reimbursed by the state the same as they currently are.[2]
  4. The Clemens Grant will be available to Alsea Graduates who meet the Clemens Foundation’s requirements.
  5. The school will operate under the same policies as we do now.
  6. We will accept students from out of district who chose our school, as we do now with open enrollment.[3] All students residing within district boundaries are guaranteed a spot in the school.

If we are proposing “No Change,” what is the point of becoming a charter district? By becoming a charter district we:

  1. Will be allowed to advertise to attract students who are excited to attend Alsea School.
  2. Provide transportation for students out of district ensuring they have access to attending school regularly.
  3. Increasing our enrollment will increase our overall funding, which will allow us to better serve all students, offer more options, and increase the diversity of our school.

Why do we need to attract more students?

School administration and the School Board have worked very hard over the last decade to keep the school fiscally secure through declining enrollments and abysmal state funding. This has allowed us to save up a decent safety net in the form of a high ending fund balance, which has increased over the last few years. This year, we are expecting to end with a lower ending fund balance than last year, as enrollment stays flat, state funding is not adequate and the costs to operate the school increase. For perspective, the district ended the 2015-16 school year with and ending fund balance of almost $750,000. As of March 3, 2017 we are estimating the ending funding balance for 2016-2017 to be around $315,000. Forecasting into the next biennium, we expect this trend to continue. The only part of our state funding, we can, in any way, control is the number of students who attend our school and chartering gives more options to attract students.

If we become a charter district can we apply for federal charter grants?

With the “No Change” option we will not be able to apply for federal charter grants. To do that, we would have to become a 501(c)(3) AND have a Charter Board.

As a charter district, would we use registered teachers as opposed to licensed teachers?

We will not change the current standards for teachers. If we wanted to alter this, the board would have to amend the plan. This would not be done without community input, nor is it something we are considering as part of the Charter at this point.

Will chartering allow us to go back to a five day school week?

This would be funding-dependent, and would be a discussion at the board level with community involvement at a later time. Increased enrollment will give us more options across the board.

Will individual grade level classrooms in the elementary be an option?

Currently, elementary classrooms at Alsea have an average of 18 kids each with one teacher and one educational assistant assigned. This is well below average class sizes in our area [according to Oregon Department of Education, Philomath’s elementary average class size is 26 and Corvallis elementary schools are in the 25-30 student range generally without full-time educational assistants in the classroom].

We would need to have increased enrollment and therefore increased income to change from our current model, which is not out of the question. For example an elementary classroom, on average, costs the district about $86,000 per year to operate [before the PERS increase we expect over the next few years are calculated in]. To add in three more classrooms, in the coming years, we would need $300,000 more in revenue to make it work.

Why would people from out of district choose to send their kids to Alsea? AND, will Alsea School still be able to offer quality education to its current students if we increase our numbers of students coming from outside the district?

With about 22% of students overall coming from out of district this year [30% in the high school, 13% in the elementary], parents are already choosing Alsea as the best option for their students. With the charter proposal, the district plans to focus on: expanding CTE, shop and vocational options; providing honors, alternative education, and advanced placement options; and increasing STEAM and enrichment services. This supports our goal of meeting every student where they are, while providing educational opportunities to help them excel in all they do. While it seems like this is a scattered approach with a wide variety of focuses, it really all comes down to providing kids the tools to succeed from where they are by providing individual attention based on student interests and needs.

Overall, what kind of feedback has the district received about the Charter District Option?

We have had many people reach out to say they are supportive of the idea, many of whom did not attend the board meeting or charter forum. Others are more hesitant to change from the current model. We will continue to solicit community feedback throughout the process.

All information is based on the current proposal being presented to the School Board. Details can change and will be influenced by community input including feedback from the community forums, received via phone calls or emails, and by people coming in to the school to learn more.

[1] Per ORS 338.035 section 2(b)(A) and (B) AND 6(b)(A-D) – Copy of this statue is available online or in print at the district office.

[2] Per ORS 338.145 section 4. Districts with charter schools are required to provide transportation to students who reside in their district. While not required to provide transportation for out-of-district students, there is no prohibition from doing so. For example, we currently provide transportation services to Kings Valley Charter School and reimbursement is calculated the same as the routes within our district.

[3] Within the enrollment limits set by the board of directors.