Hillsboro Charter School Initiative Advances - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Hillsboro Charter School Initiative Advances

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Posted: Monday, December 23, 2013 11:06 am

Before the Loudoun County School Board can vote on whether to approve a charter school in Middleburg, it may receive a charter application for a second western Loudoun school.

The parents and teachers at Hillsboro Elementary School sent a letter to the School Board and Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick this month stating they were preparing an application to convert one of the county’s oldest schools into a charter school.

They recently formed the Hillsboro Charter Committee, made up of both parents and Hillsboro teachers, and expect to formally submit a charter application in late spring or early summer.

“It is our goal to move our school to a new level, creating a top-flight charter institution that leverages its talented and dedicated community to benefit children across Loudoun County,” the Hillsboro Charter Committee letter states.

Committee members are working on curriculum for what the school’s teachers call the “encounter model,” which gets students out of their desk as much as possible and involved in hands-on projects. A Hillsboro parent said the program also would allow each student to move through the curriculum at his or her pace.

The applicants’ hope is that the school’s specialized offerings would help bolster the school’s enrollment, which sits at 62 kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

The Hillsboro Charter Committee’s letter made it clear the move to a charter is in response to comments made by School Board members as they searched for budget savings. It states, “With the School Board now considering closing down unique places of learning such as Hillsboro Elementary, we feel compelled to act.”

School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) and member Jeff Morse (Dulles), who both represent some of the county’s most crowded schools, have publicly recommended that two schools in the county that suffer dwindling enrollment—Middleburg and Hillsboro—should explore charter options or the board would consider closing them.

The majority of the School Board, including Hornberger and Morse, has voiced support for the Middleburg charter application, which is now under review by a committee of the board.

Morse said during a September meeting, “The success of this school could be mirrored across the county.”

However, a state law at is stands poses a hurdle for Loudoun to operate more than one charter school.

Even as the majority of board members view the option of charter schools favorably, the Virginia Code requires that 50 percent of a school district’s charter schools serve students at risk of not succeeding in school. According to the law, “at-risk students” include those who have a physical, emotional, intellectual, socioeconomic or cultural risk factor, of which Loudoun County, one of the nation’s wealthiest, has few.

School Board members raised this concern with the delegates and senators who represent Loudoun County during the General Assembly annual Legislative Breakfast Dec. 5.

Hornberger said the School Board is not trying to skirt any law that is meant to help at-risk students, but the requirement would most likely mean Loudoun can only operate one charter school.

Making that change is part of the School Board’s list of legislative recommendations. Del. Tom Rust (R-86), who serves on the House Education Committee, said Thursday he was not aware of any bill that aimed to amend that law. Lawmakers have until Jan. 8 to submit their bills for the 2014 session.

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  • Casey posted at 5:04 pm on Mon, Dec 30, 2013.

    Casey Posts: 55

    Sundance and Operative - Hillsboro is definitely NOT a "spa" school. If anything is a "spa" it is the new schools currently being constructed elsewhere. I doubt you realize that Hillsboro is located in the most remote northwest corner of the County. While there are def some wealthy families in western Loudoun, many families living in Neersville and Between the Hills simply can't afford to live further east. If this school closes, those students will face extremely long bus rides that students in east/central Loudoun do not experience. The school is so old that it is 100% paid for, so there are no debt payments being made as is required for new $15M ESs in central Loudoun outfitted with white boards in every classroom, with separate gymnasium, library and lunchroom. If you are a true fiscal conservative when it comes to education, you can not ignore the immense debt service Loudoun taxpayers are paying for all the true "spa" schools outfitted with all the bells and whistles being constructed in fast growing suburban areas of the County. With bus expenses over over $5/mile, keeping children at a school within 15 miles from their home (as opposed to bussing them further) is the most cost-effective option. Unfortunately, LCPS administrators refuse to include bus costs and debt service in their cost evaluation of the old schools, so folks like you are manipulated into supporting Hatrick's agenda of replacing everything with shiny new replacements - even when the original continues to function quite well.

  • AliciaS posted at 1:14 pm on Sun, Dec 29, 2013.

    AliciaS Posts: 2

    Even though it is not a solution, but we all know that ignoring mistakes makes things so much less complicated. So the school chooses its way instead of make an attempt to improve things. And of course it is all about the money. But I doubt that it is THAT directly tight to the level of education. I mean surely with a definite money flow (not necessarily to this millioner’s pocket though) the process might go faster. But, you know what, assuming that money is usually used incorrectly it is silly to expect some big changes.
    Alicia for The Best Writing Service Online

  • Sundance posted at 5:31 pm on Thu, Dec 26, 2013.

    Sundance Posts: 118

    Why is everyone in the county paying for these few families to get a little spa school in their neighborhood?

    Is there some reason there aren't 12-15 of these in Ashburn, 6-8 in Countryside, 7-8 in Cascades, and 12-15 in Sterling proper?

    Easy answer: it's too expensive. It's not good value on the dollar.

    And if the Board of Supervisors and School Board had any guts at all, that's what they'd tell people in Hillsboro, too.

    There is no reason money should be squandered in one part of the county when all the rest of us are being told there isn't enough cash to properly fund our school system.

  • The Operative posted at 4:34 pm on Thu, Dec 26, 2013.

    The Operative Posts: 207

    63 students for grades K-5? Good grief that is a riduclious waste of tax payers dollars. These smaller elementary schools probably have a 11 to 1 ratio in their respective classrooms, while Eastern Loudoun's classrooms have a 28 to 1 ratio. Close down the under enrolled Elemtary Schools. And don't get me started on the quality of education for the over enrolled Schools.

  • George Archibald posted at 11:09 am on Tue, Dec 24, 2013.

    George Archibald Posts: 19

    [beam] As a Middleburg Elementary School alumnus (1956-57), when Mrs. Ann Monrow was our teach and Mr. Hill the principal, I welcome this charter school initiative for both Middleburg and Hillsboro Elementary, where some of my LCHS Class of '62 classmates attended. Thank you, LCHS classmate Ed (Skipper) Hatrick for all your many years of service, this is not a reflection on anyone but a sensible bidgetary reality that charter schools work well and affordably in situations like these where parents and communities are engaged with skilled teeachers committed to basic education and literacy first.

  • joymaloney posted at 10:46 pm on Mon, Dec 23, 2013.

    joymaloney Posts: 8

    I find it worrisome that someone closely associated with a large, local commercial charter schools company is advocating to remove restrictions on charter schools in our state and doing so without making that possible conflict of interest transparent.

  • Casey posted at 4:58 pm on Mon, Dec 23, 2013.

    Casey Posts: 55

    "two schools in the county that suffer dwindling enrollment—Middleburg and Hillsboro"... that is such an oxymoron statement. Enrollment is NOT dwindling!

    There are plenty of children surrounding both of those schools to overcrowd them as much as any other nearby school. For example, Hillsboro's enrollment was slashed by Sam Adamo because he needed to pull as many children away from Hillsboro and send them further to Purcellville to justify building Culbert Elementary.

    Sincere best wishes and "way to go" to Hillsboro Charter Committee for taking the initiative to preserve their community school.