Sustainable Futures will resubmit application to be Carroll's first charter

A little more than eight months ago, the Carroll County Board of Education voted unanimously to deny an application from Sustainable Futures, Inc. to open the county's first charter school.

But Board members encouraged the group to revise its application and reapply this year.

That is just what Sustainable Futures plans to do.

Nicole Musgrave, chair of the Sustainable Futures Board of Directors, announced March 12 at the Board of Education meeting that the organization will resubmit its application April 1.

Sustainable Futures, is attempting to create a kindergarten through fifth grade Montessori charter school that, if approved this year, would open in 2015.

The group will host an information session Thursday at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center in Sykesville to reintroduce the proposal to the community. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

In a phone interview Friday, Musgrave said she is feeling "optimistic" about the application this year after it was "pretty close" to being approved last year.

"We think that it would be a good enhancement to Carroll County Public Schools because, of course, we do have good schools in Carroll County, but there's no variety," she said.

Musgrave said the group considered appealing the Board's decision, but decided against it for a number of reasons, including the potential effect on their relationship with the school system, time and expense with litigation, and their confidence of getting the application approved after incorporating feedback from school officials.

The Montessori teaching philosophy includes students of three-year age groupings in the same classroom, giving older students the opportunity to mentor younger students. It also includes more hands-on activities where students are given the opportunity to work individually or in small groups at their own pace.

Although there are no formal tests or grades in a Montessori classroom, students are required to participate in standardized tests as mandated by state and federal law.

Musgrave said there are no significant changes in the charter's concept and philosophy, but this year, they are trying to be more specific in some areas of the application, such as the school's budget.

Also, instead of starting with just a first- and second-grade class in 2015, Montessori charter, if approved, would open kindergarten through second-grade and expand one grade level each year.

While Sustainable Futures had been looking at possibly locating the school on Progress Drive in Eldersburg, their preferred location has since been rented.

Musgrave said Sustainable Futures plans to submit its proposal explaining the goals, requirements and possible cost of a facility and ask that the application be approved contingent upon the group finding a suitable building prior to opening.

Once the application is submitted, a group of 17 school officials, including the Superintendent's cabinet, will review the proposal before submitting a recommendation to the Board of Education.

The Board of Education has 120 days to make its decision from the day the application is submitted and depending upon the length of the application the decision process will take most of that time, according to Greg Bricca, director of research and accountability.

Musgrave added that Sustainable Futures believes that a charter school will attract families to the public school system that have been home schooling or enrolling their children in private schools.

"In the long run, that's going to help the school system and a lot of families," she said.

Planning for the Carroll Montessori Public Charter School began almost three years ago after a group of parents came together to express how satisfied they were with their children's' early education from the Ava Wanas Montessori School in Sykesville.

Sustainable Futures has launched an online petition to solicit support for the program.

As of Tuesday morning, the petition, which can be found here, had 23 signatures.

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