A charter school sought by MacDill Air Force Base in Florida has lost the first round of an appeals process.
The Florida Charter School Appeal Commission on Monday sided with the Hillsborough County School District, which had denied an application for the proposed school. The case will now go before the state Board of Education, which is scheduled to make the final decision March 18.
“As we’ve known from the very beginning of this journey, building a charter school on a military base is a very complex process and this phase is just one more step in that process,” said Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the applicant, Florida Charter Educational Foundation and its partner, Charter Schools USA.
“Although this advisory panel did not recommend overturning the district’s denial, the need for military families is well-documented and was reinforced again today,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “Ultimately, the State Board of Education will determine whether or not the denial should be overturned and we are committed to continue the fight for military families who want this educational option available on base for their children. We will not give up on doing what’s right for students.”
The foundation applied in August for a charter to build an 875-student K-8 school that would provide a middle school option for military families who live on and off the base. MacDill Charter Academy also would help ease crowding at the district-run elementary school at MacDill, proponents said.
The Hillsborough County School Board denied the application in December, following a recommendation from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
The district’s primary concerns focused on the charter’s governance structure. The academy would have a board made up of members of the foundation, which is based in south Florida, and military representatives. But day-to-day operations would fall to Charter Schools USA, a national charter management company that runs 42 charter schools in the state.
Elia said the district could better serve military families. She also said she would consider expanding the current elementary school or adding to an off-base middle school where many MacDill families now send their children. Supporters of the charter school, including parents and base commander Col. Scott DeThomas, said that wasn’t enough. They want a school that serves mostly military kids with programs that cater to their specific needs, such as special counseling when parents are deployed. And they want to have their kids near where they live and work.