Charter school seeks funds to prevent closure

School reps ask for city assistance in covering costs of rent and janitors

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Juneau Community Charter School officials are requesting $50,000 from the city to prevent a possible closure in the 2005-2006 school year.

The Juneau Assembly held public hearings on the proposed school and city budgets Monday night.

Charter school officials seek funding in the face of an estimated $35,000 cut by the school district this fall, said Ernie Mueller, a member of the school's Academic Policy Committee. The charter school is a public alternative school operating under the Alaska Charter School Act.

The school receives funding from state and local governments. State law establishes a basic amount for educational needsfor each district. The city

is allowed to allocate 23 percent beyond this amount, commonly called the cap, and the Assembly has provided that amount over the years.

The charter school wants the city to use some of that 23 percent to pay for its rent and janitorial expenses, Mueller said. Rent is not considered a basic need by the state.

Other ways the charter school can stay afloat include a legislative proposal to increase the basic needs amount in Juneau by $720,000, or enrolling more students, Mueller said.

The school, which houses kindergarten through sixth grade, has 57 students. It's been in operation seven years.

The state proposal would mean an additional $23,000 for the charter school, Mueller said. An additional 10 students could yield about another $40,000.

The charter school receives about 10 percent less funding than the high school because of unfair state funding formulas, said committee member Catherine Reardon, who has a kindergartner at the school.

"In these hard times, equitable decisions are important," Reardon said.

Parents had worried about the school's possible closure this fall, but Reardon said last month they were confident they could recruit enough students and get enough state aid to remain open.

The school district allocated $261,000 to the charter school in the 2003-04 fiscal year. It plans to give the school $226,765 for FY04-05.

Other residents asked the Assembly to fund at least one paid crossing guard for Glacier Valley Elementary School.

"Juneau drivers are not on the lookout for pedestrians," said bus driver Pam Nicholson, who has a daughter at the school. "Add children into the equation and the end result is trouble."

Nicholson and other parents want a crossing guard placed at the intersection of Stephen Richards Memorial Drive and the Mendenhall Loop Road, where a child died last year en route to school.

This year parent volunteers tried to man the intersection without success, Nicholson said.

Crossing guards would make it safer for Dave Ringle's three children to ride their bicycles to Glacier Valley, he said.

"If our city can hire crossing guards to visiting tourists in the summer, we can afford the same opportunity to our kids trying to get to school," Ringle said.

No members of the public testified on the city budget. The school budget, which is part of the overall city budget, is scheduled for adoption June 14.



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