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School board has questions for Spanish-immersion charter

For the second time in as many years, the Beaverton School Board is looking at a proposal to begin a Spanish immersion charter school.

Representatives from Arco Iris Spanish Immersion Charter School on Monday asked the Beaverton School Board to consider its application to begin a new school for children in kindergarten through the eighth grades.

Sarah Boly, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, said the board would need to make a decision on whether or not to sponsor the application at its May meeting.

'We don't have any charter schools at this point in time,' Boly told the board.

The application was submitted by the Helping Minds Organization with Isabel Lainez serving as executive director.

In May 2006, the board turned down Lainez' proposal to open another Spanish immersion charter school, Senderos Del Saber, citing concerns about financial stability.

Similar to two years ago, the board had a number of questions they wanted answered before moving forward with sponsorship.

According to information provided to the board, 'The mission of the school is to serve and nurture the whole child between the ages of 6 to 12 years old by recognizing, embracing, optimizing and supporting each child's emotional, developmental domain first.'

Teriko Moriyasu, who is helping the school through the application process, said the charter school would have small class sizes and would create an innovative approach to education.

She said there are about 70 charter schools currently in Oregon, serving an estimated 10,000 students.

'We're ready to start,' she said. 'We have great community support.'

An estimated 84 students in the first through fourth grades would attend the program the first year.

Mary Taylor, another charter school representative, said the new school would fill a need for second language education with classes of no more than 14 students.

'Aloha-Huber and Barnes are bursting at the seams,' said Taylor.

She said the district loses 200 students each year to private schools or to those who chose to home school.

'Having AISICS (the charter school) will generate approximately 15 new jobs for the community,' she said.

Charter schools catering to students in kindergarten through the eighth grades receive funding in the form of 80 percent of what a public school would receive from the state per student.

Karen Cunningham, board chairwoman, said she had concerns about the third year of the budget for the school and how teachers' salaries would change.

Board member Tom Quillin said he wanted answers to more detailed financial questions as well as information on possible locations and safety issues.

About 20 audience members stood when asked how many individuals were in support of the proposed charter school.

Lainez is also director of Chiquitos School, a private Spanish-immersion school for preschoolers and kindergartners located on Butner Road.

After the Beaverton School Board turned down the Senderos Del Saber Charter School sponsorship in May 2006, Lainez appealed to the Oregon Board of Education. In August 2007, the state board also voted to deny the school's application.

Board member Mary VanderWeele said she wanted to ensure the school met the emotional needs of its students and wanted financial questions answered as well.

Board member Craig Irwin asked about the size and location of the facility needed to operate a school.

The school is hoping to rent a 6,000 to 7,000-square-foot facility and Taylor said they are searching for a location.

'We have some great options,' she said.

Irwin also voiced concerns about salaries, saying it looked like the school's plan was to begin salaries at about $33,000 per teacher, raising that amount by $1,000 in the second year and then declining in the third year.

Lainez said the school will know in 10 days if it will receive federal charter school funds.

School officials submitted an application to not only Beaverton but to the Tigard-Tualatin school districts, though Lainez said they expected a decision from the Tigard board by April 24.

'If both are accepted, we'll have to decline one,' she said, adding that they would like to stay in Beaverton.