Officials urge another try for KIPP

Leopold, Maxwell ask two schools to find room to avoid charter program closure

June 26, 2007|By Phillip McGowan and Ruma Kumar | Phillip McGowan and Ruma Kumar,sun reporters

As a vote looms to formally close a charter school in Edgewater, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold and schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell yesterday called on an Annapolis art institute and the college that has housed the 2-year-old KIPP Harbor Academy to find room for its students.

But officials at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and Sojourner-Douglass College were surprised by the public call for them to "engage in another round of discussions" with KIPP representatives; the college's director called it "misleading."

"We never closed conversations with KIPP," said Dr. Charlestine Fairley.

The county leaders issued the joint statement two days before the board overseeing the charter school will formally decide its fate. The meeting was postponed from last night to 6 p.m. tomorrow to ensure a quorum of board members.

The academy told parents last week that it must close because it could not find a new location to house growing enrollment, making it the first of 52 KIPP schools in 16 states to close.

"I think we're just asking all sides involved, KIPP included, to take another look and see if anything can be done," Maxwell said in the statement.

Steve Mancini, a KIPP spokesman, said the county leaders haven't provided a viable solution. "We want a concrete proposal," he said. "All we got is a press release."

Sojourner-Douglass had offered KIPP a five-year lease, saying it needed a long-term commitment from the charter school to make business sense. But KIPP officials said that even with the construction of a new wing, the building is too small for its current enrollment of 120 fifth- and sixth-graders, not to mention an incoming class of seventh-graders.

The Maryland Hall board voted this month against housing the charter school. A spokeswoman, Donna Anderson, said yesterday it would have forced Maryland Hall to reduce enrollment from 5,000 to 4,000.

KIPP Harbor Academy, one of two charter schools in the county, is part of a network of college-preparatory schools designed to serve students in inner-city and low-income areas.

As part of its long-term mission to house grades five to eight, it had scouted more than two dozen locations. The school's officials offered $100,000 to rent classrooms from the half-empty Annapolis Middle School but were rejected.

Leopold said he asked Maxwell to reconsider. The superintendent declined. School officials said the space will be taken up by students relocating from schools under renovation and enrolling in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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