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Charter schools awarded grants to aid expansions

Delaware Public Media
First State Montessori in Wilmington received the largest subgrant.

The state has awarded nearly $3 million of federal money to five charter schools, most of which will use the money to make room for more students. 

The sub-grants are the first round going to First State charter schools over the next few years from a $10.4 million federal grant the state received last fall. 

The state plans to use the grant to support a 19.5 percent expansion of charter enrollment in Delaware over the next five years. Leroy Travers with the state Charter School Office says this first round of subgrants supports the addition of more than 1,800 charter seats at four schools— or an 11.5 percent increase over the current total charter enrollment in the state. 

“It’s getting us close to that goal,” said Travers. 

Travers says although Delaware has seen two charter schools closewithin the last year and several be granted charter modifications to reduce enrollment projections, expansion of charter school seats in Delaware is warranted. “The majority of our schools are not only fully enrolled but have waiting lists, some of our schools even have waiting lists into the four digits.”  

“The goal isn’t just to increase the number of seats by 19.5 percent, but it’s to increase the number of high-quality seats available by 19.5 percent,” he added. “So the idea is that our strong and successful charter schools will expand opportunities to students.”

Travers says one of the state’s other goals for the $10.4 million federal grant is to increase the percentage of “traditionally disadvantaged” students applying to charter schools, such as low-income students, minority students and English language learners.

First State Montessori in Wilmington received more than $830,000, the largest sub-grant. Head of School Courtney Fox says it will fund the rest of the planned expansion of their middle school, adding fifty to sixty seats by 2021. 

“Specifically what that looks like is renovation of the space that our middle schoolers have moved into, curriculum materials and supplies and also teacher training in Montessori middle school certification programs,” said Fox. 

Another recipient is the new Sussex Montessori, which is slated to open in 2020 with 260 seats in kindergarten through third grade.

Board chair Linda Zankowsky says the sub-grant will help pay for  the newly hired head of school until students arrive next year, student and teacher recruitment, teacher and board training, and curricular materials. 

She says Sussex Montessori will fill a need in southern Delaware. “It’s an effort in Sussex County to provide families a choice, a choice that we know is proven, is time-tested and is one that we are getting more and more research to document helps to close the achievement gap — and is successful with a wide variety of children both socially and economically in the community.”

Other recipients of subgrants include Las Americas ASPIRA Academy in Newark, which is building a new high school, and Newark Charter School, which is expanding.  Providence Creek Academy is using its award to examine the feasibility of expanding. 

State Department of Education officials say three additional rounds of sub-grants for expansion, program replication and new schools will be awarded over the next few years. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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