Gary Newton, the Walton Foundation-paid charter school lobbyist who’s led the formation of the Quest charter middle school, says on social media that the enrollment process for the new school will begin Monday and continue through March 17. That period will finish before the state Education Department’s charter review panel takes up the school operator’s application for a change of location from the site originally approved by the state Board of Education.
It’s unclear yet whether the Little Rock School District or anyone else will complain that the entire approval process for Quest was flawed by having been based on a site that will not be used. Given the track record to date, Quest is unlikely to receive close questioning from the review panel, which has tended to look favorably on all applications in the Little Rock School District.
As reported here earlier, the state Board Jan. 10, by a 6-2 vote, approved the school on Rahling Road in Chenal Valley, which is in the Pulaski County School District. The discussion included the fact that a school ostensibly designed in large part to serve a supposed unmet need in the Little Rock District was located in the Pulaski District. Discussion also included the distance to existing Little Rock middle schools. Responsive Education Solutions, the Texas-based management firm that will own the school and receive tax dollars to operate it, has now proposed to move the school many miles east, to within two miles of Henderson Middle School. My Freedom of Information Act request showed that the new site, on Hardin Road, was under discussion before the state Board of Education meeting, though that fact wasn’t mentioned by Responsive Education or Gary Newton when they advocated for approval of the Rahling Road application. The charter review panel will consider the change of location, to a much cheaper location, on March 21.
Enrollment is described as an open enrollment process. Seats won’t be filled first-come-first-served. If more applications are received than the same 200 seats available, a lottery will be held. There is one other exception that isn’t mentioned on the Facebook link:
Exceptions: Federal guidelines permit the school to exempt from the lottery process students who are already admitted under the charter, siblings of students already admitted under the charter, and children of the charter’s founders, teachers, and staff.
I’ve asked Newton, who is a founder, and Responsive Education for information about how many seats potentially will be occupied by “founders.” I’m also seeking a definition of how “founder” will be defined in Little Rock.
The Facebook notice of enrollment doesn’t mention the school site. The school is currently operating an office at 10300 Rodney Parham Road.