County's first charter school to open

May 28, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

The number of schools in Harford will grow by one this fall with the opening of the county's first charter school.

Restoration Alternative Academy Public Charter School received approval from the Board of Education last week and is moving forward with plans to use six classrooms and offices in the old Aberdeen High School building.

"We are really pleased with the board's decision and will be ready for September," said the Rev. Nathaniel Johnson, pastor of Aberdeen Bible Church and president of the nonprofit group backing the project.

Independent charter schools, which use taxpayer money to operate, must submit detailed information on enrollment, classrooms, curriculum and whether programs will be offered for special-needs students, before winning official approval.

The board noted legal issues last week and withheld approval of the Ben Carson Public Charter School. That school has yet to find a location and probably would not open until 2007 at the earliest.

Johnson said the academy remains separate from the religious affiliation of its board and will offer a nonsectarian environment.

"We will still be a public school following all the regulations," he said.

Restoration Alternative Academy would offer eighth- and ninth-grade classes to at least 30 at-risk students, primarily in the Aberdeen area but also in Havre de Grace and Belcamp. Eventually, Johnson envisions a four-year high school curriculum.

"We are thrilled to have this school," said Donald R. Morrison, school system spokesman. "They have been doing similar intercounty outreach on a contractual basis with us for a long time. We are very familiar with them. They are good people doing good work with the interest of the child at heart."

Within the next few weeks, Johnson and his board will review students' individual education plans and hire the school's staff - a principal, two teachers and two aides.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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