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Middletown Transcript
  • Mapleton Charter School wins approval to open in 2016

  • Mapleton Charter School was one of four charter applications approved by Delaware Education Secretary Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education on April 17, despite rising concerns that the growing number of charter schools in the state – particularly New Castle County – could impact public school districts.
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  • A new charter school proposed north of Middletown won approval from state officials this month to open its doors at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
    Mapleton Charter School was one of four charter applications approved by Delaware Education Secretary Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education on April 17, despite rising concerns that the growing number of charter schools in the state – particularly New Castle County – could impact public school districts.
    “We are delighted to have won the board’s approval and flattered to have been given serious consideration,” said Michael Stetter, who chairs Mapleton Charter’s seven-member board of directors. “Now we can start the process of moving from a concept to an actual school over the next two years.”
    Mapleton Charter is planned as a kindergarten and elementary school that would open off of Lorewood Grove Road with 300 students before doubling in size by 2019 as it gradually adds grade levels.
    The school, which will feature an expeditionary learning curriculum model, is expected to be a centerpiece of a proposed 500-home community, also called Mapleton. That project is part of a massive, 3,800-home mixed-use development called the Town of Whitehall that has been working its way through the New Castle County building approval process for several years.
    “The developers of the Town of Whitehall have reserved land for the school, but the approval and permitting process for us will be on a separate, yet parallel track from the rest of the residential piece,” Stetter said. “We’re hoping to have our application into the county by the next quarter and hopefully win approval sometime next year.”
    In the meantime, the charter school’s board will be seeking out a construction manager, meeting with architectural firms and visiting existing schools that use expeditionary learning to help determine best practices for a final building design.
    At the same time, the board will be negotiating a new contract with Wilmington-based Innovative Schools Development Corporation, which was initially hired to help guide the school’s charter application through the approval process.
    A new contract would allow Innovative Schools to continue as the school’s charter management organization, whose responsibilities would include overseeing the hiring of a school leader who would spearhead fundraising and hiring new staff members along with the board and Expeditionary Learing .
    While the state provides charter schools with operating funds based on a per-student formula, school construction costs must be borne by the founding organization.
    “We definitely have a huge fundraising challenge ahead of us to pay for the construction costs,” Stetter said. “Right now, we only have approximate ranges in terms of dollar amounts, so I think it’s still too early to put an exact figure out there.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The potential funding impact of Mapleton Charter is also a concern of state legislators and the Appoquinimink School District.
    Earlier this month, a group of state officials sent a letter to the state board of education expressing concern about the impact the growing number of charter schools in the state could have on local districts.
    The Appoquinimink school board this month also directed district staff to examine the potential impact Mapleton Charter could have on local schools, including a loss of students and related state funding.
    A sizeable number of students who otherwise would attend Appoquinimink schools already are enrolled MOT Charter School in Middletown , which has 675 students in its kindergarten through eighth grade program. That charter school also plans to open a new high school in 2016 that would include 750 students, many of whom would otherwise attend Appoquinimink and Middletown high schools.
    Appoquinimink School Board member Kelly Wright said she had hoped to ask the state board of education to postpone a final decision on Mapleton’s charter application until the district’s study was finished later this week. But, she said, she was told the public comment period had already concluded.
    Stetter said he was unaware of the district’s concerns, but added that he believes the impact will be minimal.
    “Any examination of where our students would be coming from at this point would be a guess, but we expect many of our families would be moving into the Town of Whitehall and not current district residents,” he said. “Given our location just south of the canal, we also would expect to draw students from the Christina and Colonial school districts, and not just Appoquinimink alone.”

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