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Waiting lists for charter schools grow steadily

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Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013 12:00 am

The names of thousands of students whose families want them to attend charter schools remain on waiting lists throughout San Joaquin County.

Most are waiting to get into one of seven Aspire Public Schools located in Stockton, where more than 2,000 students are on waiting lists.

Three of those schools — Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy, Aspire River Oaks Charter and Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy — serve students from the Lodi Unified School District. Specific numbers for each campus were unavailable due to the holiday week.

Don Shalvey, California charter school pioneer and Linden resident, said the number of new charter schools nationwide is increasing.

“A lot of that is demand by parents looking for good public school choices ... more charter schools are having greater success in achievement. These schools set a very high bar for quality,” he said.

Other charter schools sponsored by Lodi Unified include Rio Valley Charter School and Joe Serna Jr., which has 22 students on the waiting list for kindergarten, according to principal Maria Cervantes.

The school had approximately 50 families apply for the 2013-14 school year, she said.

There are no charter schools in Galt.

Waiting list lotteries are typically held in early March for the following school year.

There is an undetermined number of slots available each year, depending not only on how many children return to the school, but also whether they have siblings wishing to enroll. For example, at Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy earlier this year, 230 names were placed in a box to be randomly drawn for one of just 29 spots.

The remaining 201 names were drawn and ordered in case of openings at the start of the school year next month.

Kindergarten is the most popular grade for hopeful students attempting to get into Aspire schools, with middle school running a close second, according to Mary Welch, Aspire’s San Joaquin regional superintendent.

Local waiting list rates are in line with trends across the country.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools last week released the results of a new nationwide survey estimating that charter public school waiting lists across the nation grew to nearly 1 million students during the 2012-13 school year, up from 610,000 in 2011-12. The California Charter Schools Association estimates that nearly one-tenth of unmet nationwide demand is here in California.

CCSA worked with NAPCS on this report, providing state-level data breaking down waitlists by region.

Each fall, CCSA conducts a data survey of California charter schools regarding the number of applicants versus available seats, and whether they hold a lottery.

“Charter schools continue to grow in California in response to demand from parents for more high-quality options,” Jed Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the California Charter Schools Association, said in a press release.

“Any charter school leader will tell you that they don’t want to turn away a single student, much less tell dozens of families, but that there just isn’t enough space at the school,” Wallace said. “That’s why we are working so hard to make sure that high-quality schools are able to expand and replicate and that they have the facilities and funding they need to serve students.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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