A plan for a business-focused charter school in Gaithersburg is re-emerging

The Montgomery County Board of Education meets in Rockville on Tuesday.

For the second year in a row, the Montgomery County Board of Education is considering creating what would be the only charter school in the county. It will provide business-oriented education for middle and high school students.

Last year, the school board rejected the same joint proposal by the College of Business and Career Academy (MECCA) Institute, citing concerns about its ability to maintain adequate funding and enrollment, and the lack of a final plan for students’ transportation to and from school. .

In April, the MECCA re-submitted its application – which outlines a plan to first open the school with about 250 students in sixth and seventh grade, and then expand by one level each year to 12th grade. The proposal went through its first review by the school board on Tuesday.

School board members did not show support or opposition to the proposal this week, but flooded project leaders with questions about transportation, finances and their plans to place students in special education programs or who are learning English.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal on July 26th.

MCPS staff members recommended that the board provide “conditional approval”, which will require school leaders to provide more information on its budget and start-up costs by July 2023. If approved, the school is expected to open through the school in 2024 -25 years. When the phasing-in of the additional classes is completed, the school is expected to serve about 700 students. If more than the planned participation is applied to the program, it will run on a lottery system, project leaders said. Otherwise, all candidates will be accepted.

The only charter school – a Montessori-based primary school – that received approval from the school board was only opened for about a year before closing the public part of the school in 2014. Officials said at the time that there was not enough funding to continue to work as a charter school. It remained open as a private school.

On Tuesday, LaChaundra Graham, head of the design team for MECCA, said the school could be housed in a Russell Avenue building in Gaithersburg. Previously, the school was proposed to be in the Tacoma Park area.

If the project is approved, then leaders will begin to formally consider the option and cost of upgrading the location of Russell Avenue. Graham said MECCA is willing to spend about $ 2.7 million on repair costs.

The proposal received a $ 900,000 start-up grant from the Maryland State Department of Education, and project managers plan to provide funding for building renovations through loans, grants or bonds. They envisage covering operating costs in the coming years through student funding, which will be provided by MCPS, as well as by raising funds, grants and other funds, Graham said.

The plan promises, with the exception of any “catastrophes”, that school bus transport will be provided to all students, either through an agreement with MCPS or through a contract with another agency.

The curriculum will focus on core subjects such as math, literacy, science and social studies, but intertwine the concepts of business and financial literacy in each topic through “cross-curricular projects,” Graham said.

The proposal reappears as the MCPS discusses how to include financial literacy in high school curricula.

Earlier this month, the school board decided that “now is not the time” to start requiring students to take a financial literacy course before graduation.

With 5 to 3 votes, the board rejected a proposal by student member Hannah O’Loney to require all high school students to take a half-credit financial literacy course. Instead, the board approved a plan that requires expanded access to optional courses on the subject. As part of its vote Tuesday, the school board said it would review the idea again, as well as the effectiveness of efforts to expand access to elective courses in the spring of 2023.

You can contact Caitlynn Peetz at [email protected]

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