Charter schools contract with Scappoose Schools expires next June

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - The Sauvie Island Academy.The Sauvie Island Academy took the first step toward renewing its charter with the Scappoose School District on Monday, Aug. 19, as its school board delegated a subcommittee to work on the document.

The contract with the Scappoose School District, under which the Sauvie Island Academy operates as a public charter school that receives funding from the district, expires at the end of next June. It first took effect for the 2011-12 school year.

“The school district, it’s kind of a negotiation,” explained Darla Meeuwsen, the school’s director, on Tuesday. “They’re not obligated, as the sponsor, to provide any services. But there are some things that it behooves them to work together with us on, because we have shared families.”

The academy must give at least 180 days’ notice if it wishes to renew the charter, according to Meeuwsen.

Board members Matt Brubaker, Diane Kunkel and Matt Mahaffy volunteered to serve on the subcommittee, which Meeuwsen suggested should aim to submit a formal request to renew the charter in October.

School staff are also trying to “piggyback” off the district’s new mass communication system, Blackboard Connect. The service allows school administrators to contact families with alert messages, useful for scenarios ranging from road closures to a child not showing up for class, library and media assistant Terra Hayes told the board during Monday’s meeting.

“It’s an awesome program,” Hayes said. “It will allow us to send the text alerts, phone calls, emails, and also send our newsletter through that system, so it’s nice that that’s all in one system rather than a bunch of different places.”

The Sauvie Island Academy leases the building that formerly housed the Sauvie Island School from the Scappoose School District. That elementary school was converted into a charter school that serves kindergarten through eighth grade in 2011 after a debate over whether to close the school due to budget constraints.

Scappoose is not the only district in Columbia County that has looked to schools in outlying communities for budget savings.

In the neighboring St. Helens School District, the Columbia City School for sixth-grade students closed last year in an effort by the school board to cut costs. The district is now exploring the possibility of reopening that school as a science-oriented magnet academy.

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