Charter school weighed for Battle Ground

Summit View Middle teacher aims to gauge community interest

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Karl Johnson, a teacher at Summit View Middle School in Battle Ground, says he's committed to finding a better way to reach students who don't thrive in a regular classroom.

To learn more

Learn more at the state's charter schools website.

"We need to think outside the box. To re-engage the family and the child in the culture of the school," Johnson said.

He's looking to the state's new charter schools law as a potential way to reach those students. He hopes to open one of the state's first charter schools at a former Girl Scout camp now named Camp Hope.

If you go

• What: Charter school open forum.

• When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

• Where: Camp Hope, 12800 N.E. Roper Road, Battle Ground.

• Details: Community members are invited to discuss the vision of a charter school in Battle Ground. This discussion is being led by Karl Johnson, a Battle Ground teacher. The charter school discussion is not affiliated with Battle Ground Public Schools.

Johnson is inviting community members interested in learning about a potential charter school in Battle Ground to a charter school open forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at Camp Hope, near Lewisville Park north of Battle Ground.

"I'll talk about what the law says about charter schools," Johnson said. "The 32 points that have to be dealt with."

Johnson will be joined by Marc Boldt, former county commissioner, and Charles Cox, a former school board member in Hockinson. They've formed a nonprofit organization to raise money to rebuild Camp Hope. The ultimate goal is for the camp to become a charter school, but Johnson said the charter school could be at a different site rather than the camp.

Charter schools in Washington

• In November 2012, voters approved Initiative 1240 to establish charter schools. The process is overseen by the state Board of Education.

• Early in the spring, 13 school districts filed letters of intent: Battle Ground, Bellevue, Eastmont, Highline, Kent, Nasalle, Peninsula, Port Townsend, Sequim, Spokane, Sunnyside, Tacoma and Yakima.

• So far, only Spokane Public Schools has completed the lengthy application to become a charter school authorizer.

• The state’s first charter school is scheduled to open fall 2014.

About Washington’s Charter School Commission

• Nine appointed members hailing from Bellevue (three members), Seattle (two members), Vashon Island, Mount Vernon, Spokane and Springdale.

• Upcoming Charter School Commission meetings: Sept. 12 in Spokane, Oct. 17 in Yakima, Nov. 7 in Vancouver and Dec. 5 in Hoquiam.

Johnson says one of the charter school application questions asks what a community's need is for a charter school. "This meeting is a great gauge of the need," he said.

"He's (Johnson) committed to the program and he wants to pursue it," said Duane Rose, interim superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools. "I can't fault his enthusiasm for it. But everything he's doing for this charter school thing is on his own. He's not doing this under the auspices of the school district and school board."

In November, Washington voters approved Initiative 1240 to establish charter schools in Washington state. The initiative also called for the creation of a nine-member commission to manage and oversee the charter school system.

In early spring, Battle Ground was one of 13 school districts in the state that filed an intent to submit an application to become a charter school authorizer.

The district's March 15 letter of intent to the Washington State Board of Education was signed by John Idsinga, school board president, and Shonny Bria, the district's superintendent at the time. Bria left the district June 30.

In late spring, district officials "sat down and looked at the process for become a (charter school) authorizer and decided to not pursue it at the time," said Denny Waters, the school district's executive director of special education, who participated in those meetings.

Of the 13 districts that filed an intent, Spokane Public Schools was the only district to go a step further and submit the lengthy application to become a charter school authorizer.

The application process to become a charter school authorizer is "involved and complicated," Waters said.

He said the district researched charter school applications from other states and found they ranged from 200 to 700 pages.

"Our outlook is we're waiting and seeing," Waters said. "See the pros and cons. See what other school districts do. I think that's probably the tack that most school districts are taking.

"It was not that we did not want to do charter schools," Waters said. "It's more like: 'Wow! There's a lot of unanswered questions.'"

Without the school district being a charter school authorizer, Johnson plans to submit the charter school application directly to the state Board of Education. If approved, the state would give the charter school approximately $5,200 for each student enrolled. That money would not come from the district's current levy.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;