Charter schools took up the bulk of the Palm Beach County School Board’s special meeting Wednesday, with the board voting to approve six new charter school applications while at the same time giving the go-ahead for a 90-day termination notice for iGeneration Empowerment Academy charter schools.
Among the charter school applicants approved Wednesday was a long sought-after West Palm Beach “municipal” charter.
“We are so excited about the opportunity this presents us to provide educational services to young people in our city,” West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio told school board members, saying she is looking forward to partnering with the school district on education.
The city hopes to open its charter school next school year, which would make it the first municipal charter school in the county and one of only a handful in the state.
The city commission is expected, at its Sept. 30 meeting, to look at two applicants to manage the charter school, said Chris Roog, executive assistant to the mayor. Roog said the two companies expressing interest are: Charter Schools USA, which runs the Renaissance charter school chain that has two open schools in the county; and Mosaica Education, which currently has no brick-and-mortar schools in Florida.
School board member Jenny Prior Brown noted several trends among the new charter school applicants, including the fact that several put emphasis on foreign languages and the five elementary school applicants all had extended school days.
“One of the concepts behind the charter school movement is they can be innovators,” Brown said, suggesting that the district could learn from some of the trends in the applications.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, iGeneration officials sought to convince the school district that its trend this year of construction problems and fire code violations was not indicative of its school.
The school decided over the summer to consolidate its Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens campuses into one location in West Palm Beach. But the school has struggled to bring that location, at 5829 Corporate Way, up to code. Those struggles meant that students were late starting school, and some of its students continue to be without a permanent classroom.
About 30 parents, students and staff of the West Palm Beach charter attended Wednesday’s school board meeting to show support.
“Since my son has been attending iGeneration, he has been doing a complete 180 in his work,” said Chrissi Suttman of Palm Beach Gardens, one of a half-dozen who spoke in favor of the school. She said her 14-year-old was “falling through the cracks” in his traditional public school, but has excelled with the smaller environment and attention at iGeneration.
The school’s attorney, Corey Smith, asked the board to table the discussion of the closure for a week to give the school time to finish construction.
But while some board members expressed sympathy for the charter, the board voted 6-0 — with board member Marcia Andrews away — to approve the 90-day termination notice.
District officials will be monitoring the school for compliance and the safety of the students, and will move to shut the school down immediately if there are any emergency issues.