The DeKalb County School Board voted on June 13, to allow a waiver for two county charter schools to continue operating another year after a recent state Supreme Court decision left their future uncertain.
The waiver allows both the Peachtree Hope Charter School in East Lake and the Museum School of Avondale Estates to continue operating and receiving funding from the county as they work toward presenting a five-year charter proposal.
In May, the Supreme Court voted the creation of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional. The commission was originally developed in 2008 as a way to approve and fund charter schools that had been denied by local school boards. The 4-3 vote left eight schools in operation, including the two in DeKalb County, and eight approved charters slated to open in the fall in jeopardy of losing local funding.
“I’m very sympathetic to the place that the charter schools find themselves in and I would not stand in the way. I would just ask that our charter schools, when they return a year from now with their updated charters, that they put a lot of work into it, that they heed the things that have been given to them by our staff as areas where they might improve,” board member Donald McChesney said.
Several board members also raised concerns about the attendance lines and said that they wanted to make sure that the schools were representative of the communities in which they were located.
Board Member Sarah Copelin-Wood said she was glad the board would continue to fund the charters for another year but that she wanted to recover the money that was spent by the local district under the charter commission.
“I’m not saying that the charter schools should pay the money back; I’m saying that the state of Georgia should pay the money back,” Copelin-Wood said.
Museum School Principal Katherine Kelbaugh and Board of Directors Chairwoman Sasha Webb said that the school system staff had been very supportive in answering all of the questions they had and were very open about the process.
“We’re very appreciative of them and particularly their willingness to work on such an expedited timeline. I know they’ve worked very hard to make this all turn around so quickly,” Webb said.
Kelbaugh said that the school system staff had identified some areas of concern but the Museum School was concentrating on one thing at a time.
“Honestly, the focus has really been just on the one-year term for now and then we’ll start the conversation again this summer and fall about the five-year charter,” Kelbaugh said.