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Friday, October 16, 2009

You better learn some economics before opening a charter school

It seems charter schools are popping up everywhere, leasing space in office parks and sharing classrooms with existing LA Unified schools. Charters will even get a chance to operate dozens of new schools the Los Angeles school district plans to complete in the coming years. But if you are considering getting into the charter school business, prepare yourself for a long and costly challenge. That's what the parents and educators behind the proposed El Rio Charter School have learned as they plan to open a school somewhere in Northeast LA.

Vivian Johnson have banded together to open a Waldorf "inspired" charter school by 2012. Their inspiration is Ocean Charter, a Mar Vista school modeled on the Waldorf style.

"The Waldorf-inspired approach to educating children is practiced in a worldwide network of public and independent Waldorf schools," Johnson said via email. "The comprehensive curriculum incorporates art, music and storytelling, emphasizing the use of the imagination to encourage critical thinking and develop exceptional writing, verbal and problem-solving skills."

No location has been selected but Johnson said the goal is open a K-8 school that will eventually enroll 460 students. But before the El Rio supporters have any chance to opening their Waldorf school they must raise $250,000 in private and state funds, said Johnson. That's way more than the $283 in donations collected at the group's first public meeting in August.

"One of the challenges we are presently in is raising the necessary seed money to get the charter and start the school," Johnson said. "The founders are a grassroots team, not professionals, and we're learning as we go. We're doing our best to get the word out about the school to the Northeast Los Angeles community."

But the founders of El Rio won't be able to relax once and if the school opens. "We will need to continue to fund raise year after year to keep the school up and running," said Johnson.

If you are up for the challenge, Johnson and the El Rio founders are holding a meeting about their school on Saturday afternoon at the Audubon Center in Montecito Heights.

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