Pencader students scout new options

Now that Pencader Business and Finance Charter School is forced to close it doors at the end of this academic year, its student body of more than 400 must decide where they want to attend school next year.

Last week, the state Board of Education made a unanimous decision to revoke the school’s charter after years of mismanagement and low academic performance.

Following the conclusion, the state announced it would help displaced students through the process starting with an information meeting about enrolling in other school districts.

Tuesday, many parents and students crowded the school’s gym to attend that meeting and hear what the other school districts have to offer.

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“My message to parents tonight has been to pursue the next option as quickly as possible,” said John Carwell, director of the Charter School office for the Department of Education. “Even if they could tonight, I know they have to take back their notes, and materials they received from the schools and think about what’s the best option, but my recommendation is to move as quickly as possible.”

Other options

Since the state’s choice program is officially closed, five school districts and two charter schools reported still having availability next year. The department of education released the information below to Pencader families:

Brandywine: Choice availability at Brandywine and Mount Pleasant; waiting list at Concord
Christina: Choice availability at Christiana, Glasgow and Newark
Colonial: Choice availability at William Penn
Red Clay Consolidated: Choice availability, information on specific schools to be determined (the district’s Choice permission forms are due from parents March 15)
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Choice availability, information on specific schools to be determined (process not complete until May)
Appoquinimink: Availability for students in the district’s feeder pattern

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security and The New Maurice J. Moyer Academy also have openings.

Freeman Williams, superintendent of the Christina School District said there are roughly 400 open seats between the three high schools in his district.

“They’re open for the 2013-2014 school year,” said Williams. “We have seats available and we’re welcoming the opportunity for any of the Pencader students to join us in our three respective schools.”

While there seems to be more than enough open seats between the schools, many parents and students did not feel satisfied with the options.

“We spoke to Red Clay about Conrad which actually would have been an option for us, but Conrad has no slots,” explained Kevin Price, the father of Pencader junior Ayslyn Price. “There’s another charter school that would have also been an option for us, they don’t accept seniors. So many of our ‘would have been’ opportunities are blocked for various reasons, but that wasn’t transparent either. We had to come here with hopes, only to be told, ‘No, we can’t help you.’”

Junior class president Christa House is upset about not being able to graduate with her classmates and fulfill her academic achievements that she’s worked hard at for the past three years at Pencader.

“Here, I could have written the graduation speech,” said House. “I’m class president, that’s what I do. I was in the running for valedictorian here, and now I have to move on with my life? That’s not fair to me.”

Last ditch effort

Earlier this school year, Pencader attempted a last ditch effort to revamp the school board by welcoming six well respected state educators to lead the school.

Frank McIntosh is president of that new board and said they’re looking at every option to try and keep the school’s doors open.

“Number one is effectively the denial of choice, just because they have schools here tonight doesn’t mean that that is the full breadth of choice,” explained McIntosh. “There are a lot of schools who aren’t here tonight obviously, and those would be schools that are students would be interested in, and that effectively they were denied the opportunity to do so. Secondly, we’re talking with another charter school about maybe merging.”

A school board meeting is scheduled for Thursday where additional details will be released.

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