Delaware public school district intervenes to save failing charter school

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Delaware Academy for Public Safety and Security is under formal review by the state, but Colonial School District has offered a helpiing hand to help the school stay open. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Delaware Academy for Public Safety and Security is under formal review by the state, but Colonial School District has offered a helpiing hand to help the school stay open. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The Delaware Academy for Public Safety and Security in New Castle, a charter high school founded six years ago to prepare students for careers in policing, firefighting and emergency response, is in serious peril.

There are now 217 students – down from 330 four years ago. None of the 10th graders met state math proficiency standards last year. In English, barely one in six were up to par.

But Colonial School District has a novel rescue plan for the charter school that’s located within its boundaries. Colonial is providing academic, technical and professional support to prevent the state from shutting down the school known as DAPSS.

It’s the first time a traditional Delaware district has partnered with a struggling charter.

“For us it was really a belief that first it was about the kids, and second it fits perfectly in the needs of our community,’’ Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey said.

“We have about six fire departments in the areas that we cover and serve. We just think it’s a great alignment with the programs that are happening in our middle school.”

One Colonial middle school, McCullough, and the district’s lone high school, William Penn, has a pathway in allied health that kids interested in a paramedic career can take. Penn also has a pathway in criminal justice.

If Colonial can help DAPSS attract more students and improve academically, it will put the charter under the district umbrella.

“It’s definitely a challenge,’’ Blakey said. “I think that we’ve got some things in place that we think with some coaching models and really strong instructional practice that we can move the needle and get kids to be proficient.”

Also assisting is the Spanish immersion school, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy near Newark, whose principal, Margie Lopez Waite, is the new chair of the DAPSS board of directors.

The state will decide this spring if the school will remain open or have to close.

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