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May 17, 2013
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Union Hill K-6 charter approved

Union Hill School District has jumped on board with the increasing popularity of charter schools after its K-6 charter conversion was approved Tuesday.

The charter will mean more flexibility in choice of curriculum and more professional development of staff, as well as freedom for students from any geographic area to attend the school without needing to get an interdistrict transfer from their home districts.

“Part of our focus in going charter is our belief in parent choice in education, so we’ve had a real positive response,” said Superintendent Susan Barry. “Now it’s actually done.”

Because schools receive money from average daily attendance, another charter school will mean added competition for traditional schools, which have been faced with declining enrollment, said Eric Fredrickson, Grass Valley School District superintendent, who ended interdistrict transfer agreements in order to keep students in his district in April 2011.

Unlike some themed charter schools, Union Hill will remain traditional but with an added focus on mathematics, Barry said.

Such a focus is a positive thing, said Elizabeth Sandoval, parent of a Union Hill first-grader who struggles with math.

“I think math is very important and it’s one of those subjects, with reading and others, you will take through your whole life and it’s a challenging subject, so I love that they will focus more on that,” she said. “I’m happy for the teachers. I know they really wanted to do this to have more creativity instead of just going straight from the book and having more input for fun activities.”

Teachers currently have 45 minutes of prep time, Barry said, but with the addition of enrichment classes, which can be introduced through charter flexibility, staff members can take some added time for collaboration and development.

“You have the option of using that flexibility to having the same instructional minutes, but we’d like to get larger blocks of regular time where grade levels can meet to analyze data and improve instruction,” she said.

The next step in the process is to submit all approved documents to the state board of education, which will return with details of what the charter budget will be.

“They actually have the final word on what our budget will be,” Barry said.

“That’s when we can really start planning.”

Implementation of the charter program will begin next year; the school is currently in open enrollment until May 31.

There will be a public random drawing for prospective students at 5:45 p.m., June 3, at the district office, where each application will be given a random number sequence and a lottery will take place.

“We take applications and batch them by grade level, assign grade-level priority lists and draw numbers to fill our open spots,” Barry said.

The school has been pursuing an all-charter status, but because of the strict four-level requirements to go all-charter, its administrators decided to go through the partial conversion process that just requires board approval in the meantime.

The district also chose to keep both seventh and eighth grades out of the charter because of how intertwined those teachers are, Barry said.

“There’s six staff members and they teach both seventh and eighth, so splitting that grade level has no educational advantage at this point,” she said.

“We are still pursuing the all-charter process, but we feel that doing our partial conversion and really utilizing it and refining it will give us more strength to go all-charter.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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The Union Updated May 17, 2013 11:14PM Published May 20, 2013 05:32PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.