The Anchorage School Board meeting heard testimony Tuesday about the homeschooling charter program Family Partnership Charter School. Discussion about the school consumed over two hours of the meeting, and a vote was never taken on extending the charter, as the matter was postponed.
Board Member Kelly Lessens motioned to extend Family Partnership’s charter to a full 10 years. The Board members began discussion on that amendment and there were three who appeared to support granting a full 10-year charter — Margo Bellamy, Dave Donley, and Kelly Lessens, while Dora Wilson and Carl Jacobs seemed to be undecided.
The apparent dissenters — Andy Holleman and Pat Higgins — argued that a 5-year charter would be adequate.
Although it was never said outright, the apparent sticking point is that a few years ago, a reimbursement was made to a parent at the charter school for a class from a religious-based institution, without that class having been preapproved by the district. The amount was minor, but some school board members do not like the religious-based education service providers.
Before last year’s school shutdowns, FPCS had 679 students, but now about 1,000 students attend the FPCS, and the school would like to expand capacity to 3,000, thus are asking for a 10-year extension on its charter so it may plan for expansion. Some school board members apparently want to cap enrollment.
During the meeting, Superintendent Deena Bishop and others mentioned how schooling had changed and how Family Partnership Charter school is the future of schooling.
As hundreds of students and their families look for resources and options for learning, a proposal from ASD to cap the number of students was concerning to those testifying in support of the charter school.
“Hearing homeschooling is the future of education, made me more resolved we need a 10-year charter and not to limit the number of students. Please commit to letting ASD hear your voice about where your tax dollars will go. Please feel free to check out the attached sample letter about Family Partnership Charter Renewal,” one parent wrote to Must Read Alaska.
Family Partnership Charter School began with the efforts of parents and teachers. The school’s first charter application was presented to the Achorage School District in 1996 and unanimously approved in January 1997. Final approval by the State of Alaska Board of Education approval came on June 23, 1997 and FPCS opened its doors a week later.
The charter school is a bridge between home-school students and formal education. It provides a mechanism by which families may work with certified teachers to plan personalized individualize learning plans for their students. The school enrollment is by lottery, and is highly sought by parents in the district.
In the end, Family Partnership Charter renewal was tabled until the Dec. 6 meeting. The public may still testify by writing to [email protected].