Lotteries have been held in six of the eight schools for at least one grade level.
Demand for seats in most of the eight charter schools scheduled to open across Washington this fall appears to be outpacing supply, though some schools aren’t yet full.
The eight schools received a total of roughly 1,600 applications for about 1,200 seats, said Tom Franta, head of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, a nonprofit that supports charters. Six of the eight held lotteries to select students for at least one grade level. State law says that if charters have more applicants than seats, they must hold lotteries to select who will be admitted.
If the big troubles at First Place Scholars, the state’s first charter school, are dampening demand, they don’t appear to be hurting enrollment at the other schools.
First Place has been roiled in turnover, financial problems and dwindling enrollment since converting from a private school last fall. The state commission governing charters says it’s possible the school may not be able to last beyond the end of the school year.
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Charter advocates say prospective parents are aware of First Place’s problems and ask how other charters will be different.
Among the charters with waiting lists: Spokane International Academy, which received 250 applications for 160 seats in its kindergarten, first grade and sixth grade classes. A kindergarten waiting list there tops 60 students, and about 40 students are waiting for a spot to open up in the first grade class, said Travis Franklin, the school’s principal.
The school is still looking for a handful of sixth graders — 56 of the school’s 60 seats in that grade are filled, Franklin said.
Eventually, the school will be open to students in grades K-8.
Green Dot, which already runs 21 charters in Los Angeles and one in Tennessee, is still looking for sixth graders, too, for a school it plans to open in Tacoma in September. Despite initially receiving 205 applications, only about 150 of the 200 sixth grade seats at that school are filled, said Bree Dusseault, head of Green Dot’s Washington program.
Green Dot illustrates something all new charters in Washington must deal with between now and September: Not every student who applies to a charter will enroll, even if they are selected in a lottery.
Other schools that reported holding lotteries are Summit Sierra in Seattle, Excel Public Charter School in Kent, PRIDE Prep in Spokane, and SOAR Academy and Summit Olympus in Tacoma. Two schools — Green Dot in Tacoma and Rainier Prep in Highline — did not.
Each school will begin with a small pilot class this year, and will add students gradually. Most schools plan to reach capacity after about five years.
Charters are publicly funded but independently run schools that aren’t bound by many of the same restrictions as traditional public schools. Under a 2012 law, eight charters can open in Washington each year for five years.
Charter schools opening in Washington state this fall
|Excel Public Charter||Kent||middle|
|Spokane International Academy||Spokane||K-8|
|Source: Seattle Public Schools|