Juneau has a new public school.
The Juneau School Board, voting 4-3 Tuesday after three hours of impassioned debate about diversity and fairness, approved Montessori Borealis Charter School.
The school would begin next year in rented quarters. It is approved for two years.
Organizers hope to have about 113 students from kindergarten through grade nine, as well as some pre-schoolers.
The School Board had been concerned about whether the charter school would cost the district money and whether its enrollments would reflect Juneau's ethnic and income diversity. The district's current Montessori classrooms are underrepresented by ethnic minorities and low-income children.
But on Tuesday proponents submitted a balanced budget that wouldn't cost the district money, based on some assumptions about fund raising, the cost of rent, the cost of special-education services and the amount of city funding to the district.
For board members in the voting minority, it was a financial risk they couldn't support.
"A lot of resources would be going to a program that does not have diversity," School Board member Andi Story said.
And critics wondered why Montessori wasn't more diverse already.
"They have been part of our district and they haven't achieved that," School Board member Phyllis Carlson said.
The charter school will receive the state funds and the minimum amount of city funds that its students generate in the state's funding formula. It amounts to $535,000 in the first year. Organizers also expect to raise money and use revenues from pulltabs.
Voting in favor of the charter school were Mary Becker, Bill Peters, Julie Morris and Rhonda Befort. Voting against were Bob Van Slyke, Andi Story and Phyllis Carlson.
Becker said Montessori would have to be more accountable to the district as a charter school. And she said she hoped offering another choice would draw more students to the district.
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