Charter schools have a reputation for being a growing presence in urban education, but one proposed for Florida stands out for a more novel locale: a military base.
Charter Schools USA, with 58 schools in seven states, has applied to open a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. If approved, it would be the second charter school on a Florida military base and the ninth one nationally.
MacDill, headquarters to U.S. Central Command, has an A-rated elementary school. It’s operated by the local school district and has served the base for 50 years. But with about 500 students, it’s at 93 percent capacity. And in a recent interview with a local newspaper, the district superintendent said it’s possible the school could expand, but she didn’t say how or when.
That’s a concern for a base that serves 13,000 families and expects another 600 to move into new housing within the next year, said local attorney Stephen Mitchell, a member of the MacDill Advisory Education Council, which includes representatives from the community and base.
Another big worry, he said, is that military families, who want their children to remain on base, don’t have a middle school option.
The current school, Tinker Elementary, “is a valuable asset and we don’t anticipate to detract from it,” Mitchell said. “This is about quality of life for military families. Housing and education – we have to take care of that.’’
Plans call for MacDill Charter Academy to accommodate 875 students with a unique design: grades 6, 7 and 8 will have double the seats (about 150) of the K-5 classes. That quickly addresses the greater need for a middle school, said Richard Page, vice president of development for Charter Schools USA.
The academy, like Tinker, will be open to the public, but MacDill families get first priority. Parents and relatives will have to undergo advanced security screenings to enter the base.
The school will focus on creating programs that meet the needs of military families, many of whom are reassigned to different bases every two years. It will make it easier for parents to get transcripts and enroll their children, and to transition into a new community. There also will be special counselors for children whose moms and dads might be deployed overseas. Continue Reading →