The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

January 28, 2011

Prep academy looking to add K-5 grades

ANDERSON, Ind. — A type of education previously reserved for middle and high school students will soon be available for elementary school children.

The Anderson Preparatory Academy has decided to open an elementary school.

The APA opened its first school in 2008 for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The military-themed public charter school is authorized by Ball State University and expanded its offerings to 10th grade last year as its students graduated to the next grade.

Eleventh and 12th grade will be offered as the students in the lower levels enter those grade levels.

APA Commandant Robert Guillaume said the school’s board made the decision to open an elementary school in December.

Guillaume said the decision was made at the urging of parents.

“It had been something that was not off the table from general discussion, but we’ve had so much pressure from parents and individuals in the community that now that we’ve had the middle and high school, the pressure was enormous.”

The school is expected to open this fall, he said.

APA hopes to for an enrollment of 240 students in its inaugural kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.

The location of the school remains a mystery. There’s no room at the high school or middle school to add elementary students, so APA officials are looking for a building but won’t disclose which one yet.

“We have made communications concerning procuring a facility,” Guillaume said.

The opening of an elementary school is welcome news for APA parent Michelle Dreschler. With one student in APA’s sixth-grade class, another at Northside Intermediate School and a third entering kindergarten in the fall, Drechsler has been waiting for news that the school will expand to the lower grades.

“I like their structure. I like the educational benefits, small classrooms, the staff. I like everything there they offer,” Drechsler said.

The news could mean a further loss in student enrollment at Anderson Community Schools.

Tom Forkner, president of the Anderson Federation of Teachers, said the charter school is clear competition for ACS.

He’s not convinced that the charter-school system does a better job of educating students.

“We’ve seen data that shows the worst performing schools in Indiana — guess what those schools are? Charter schools. They haven’t proved in Indiana to be doing better and seem to be doing worse.”

Although ACS has already lost more than 200 teachers, Forkner said the expansion of the charter school could result in further cuts.

“It would depend on how many students they take from Anderson Community Schools. You take 200 and you spread those 200 through all those grades through all the schools and you might get some layoffs but if they’re spread evenly, they might not.”

Eventually, the charter hopes elementary enrollment will top 300 students.

Drechsler, who has already put her child on the waiting list for entry into the elementary class, said she isn’t choosing APA because she feels that ACS cannot educate her daughter, Olivia. “I think it’s just preference as far as the child and what you think is most beneficial for them.”

Retired ACS teacher Nicki Ross now works with the charter school and is helping to amend its charter to include elementary grade levels.

Ross said charter schools present options for parents, not competition for traditional public schools.

There is one thing missing from the public instruction curriculum, according to Ross. “I think teaching respect is very important and insisting upon respect. I really think that is missing.”

Ross said she sees both sides of the public versus charter school issue. “I just think every parent has the right and the responsibility to find the best place for his or her child, the best fit. It just depends on what you’re looking for. We’re just providing another option. I have lots of friends who are ACS teachers so I appreciate where they are coming from.”

Contact Brandi Watters 640-4847, brandi.watters@heraldbulletin.com         

 

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