Chesterton Tribune

Discovery Charter School sets enrollment target at 436

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Discovery Charter School in Porter, which opened its doors in 2010, expects to grow its student body by about 60 pupils next year.

The school also plans to add a first grade class for the 2012-2013 school year, with the possibility of an additional third or fifth grade class depending on where enrollment numbers are the highest, said Karen Poplawski, principal of Discovery Charter School.

Just as it added 7th grade to its curriculum, plans are to expand the charter school to include 8th grade next year.

Currently, 378 students are enrolled for this year and the targeted enrollment of 436 is the number of what school officials are using to set their funding figures.

“A lot of our budgets are based on 436,” Poplawski said at Wednesday’s school board meeting, adding she is confident the school would see those numbers. She said applications are “coming in daily” with the greatest surge expected in May.

Charter schools in Indiana are open to any student living in the state. Poplawski told the Tribune Duneland children represent the biggest portion of enrolled students. The second largest group, she said, are students from the Portage area. The third largest come from Valparaiso or Michigan City while the remaining slice of the pie sees students from further away places like Rolling Prairie, Hobart, Hebron, Knox and Miller Beach.

As part of its actions on Wednesday, the board made a clarification on the schools’ uniform policy. Jackets worn indoors by students would need to include the school’s logo.

Board member Janine Girzadas said uniforms can be ordered at school registration in July. Directions for ordering are also available on the website, www.dunesdiscoverycharter.org.

In another announcement, Discovery will not see Poplawski returning next year as principal since she will be moving away from the area. The school’s management company, American Quality Schools (AQS), has narrowed a successor down to two or three candidates and will make its recommendations in the very near future, Poplawski said.

“We want to find someone by the end of March so we can begin the transition,” she said.

Poplawski, an employee of AQS, has served as principal for two years since the school opened.

Meanwhile, Girzadas, who acts as president for Discovery’s Parents Advisory Council (PAC), said PAC funded a teacher shopping day last week where every class was allowed to purchase a shopping bag of whatever supplies they needed. Girzadas also proposed creating a “sky’s the limit” wish list to help teachers continue to collect other items needed for their classrooms.

Also, Poplawski said ISTEP Applied Skills tests will begin the week of March 5.

School Performance Report

Board president Laurie Metz addressed a question by the Chesterton Tribune as to why a few items were missing from the Discovery’s 2011 annual performance report released by the Indiana Department of Education earlier this month. Such items included the three-year average of total expenditure per pupil, minimum and maximum teacher salaries, and total ISTEP remediation funding.

Metz explained that since the school is still in its infancy, some of the figures such as the three-year average per pupil expenditure have not been reported by the state, but she told the Tribune and the board that the school has been compliant in reporting all required information to the DOE.

Since Discovery is a public school, it is held to the same standards and regulations as traditional public schools.

Poplawski said she expects the state to release the remaining information in the near future and it will be released to the media once it’s available.

Meanwhile, Metz told the Tribune that teacher’s salaries range from $32,000 to $38,000 at Discovery. The school has not received any ISTEP or remediation funding, she said. For expenditure per pupil, Metz said Discovery currently receives the same amount from the state as the Duneland School Corporation, $4,971 per student per year.

Extracurricular Programs Sprouting

Officials at Discovery gave the Tribune a tour of the new renovations at the school, which now includes 7th grade classrooms and a music room featuring classes for band.

Discovery’s list of activities continues to grow this year with a host of programs appealing to different talents. Students can participate in Glee Club, Drama Club, Young Rembrandts, the Discovery Trackers 4-H club and a nature club.

The Discovery Run Club, started this year, took 2nd place in its first conference meet.

Metz said the school is hoping to broaden its athletic activities by adding a gymnasium.

Because charter schools do not have a capital projects fund nor have the authority to issue levies as traditional schools would, money to build a gymnasium would come from fundraising efforts and private donations. Charter schools are issued a General Fund through the state from an increase in the sales tax rate.

Kindergarten Lottery

Before the board met, Discovery held its yearly lottery for incoming Kindergarten students with 44 spaces available (two kindergarten classes of 22). All spots were filled, with 49 more on the wait list.

Names were picked randomly by a third-party, Porter Town Council President Greg Stinson. Applicants with siblings at the school were automatically offered a spot for the school year.

Poplawski said all those selected and wait-listed will be contacted by e-mail within one business day. Families will then have five business days to complete enrollment forms in order to reserve their space.

Metz said wait list families should not discouraged because many spaces open up when families with students who were picked in the lottery find out they cannot commit to certain things such as the amount of travel or time involved.

For other grades, the wait list goes forward each year, meaning the children on the wait list for Kindergarten will be on the wait list for 1st grade next year.

 

Posted 2/23/2012