Teacher plans local charter school

Her notice of intent to apply is first of its kind for county

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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An Evergreen Public Schools teacher is the first person to formally declare an intention to open a charter school in Clark County.

Yelena Ovdiyenko submitted a notice of intent to open Bilingual Charter Academy, a K-5 language immersion school, for the 2015-16 school year.

Her plan is to enroll between 150 and 250 pupils in the school’s first year.

Ovdiyenko teachs English language learners at Covington Middle School. Previously, she taught ELL and Russian at Evergreen High School.

Ovdiyenko’s notice was one of 13 letters of intent statewide submitted to the state Charter School Commission. Other communities represented include Grays Harbor, the lower Yakima Valley, Pierce County, the Rainier Valley and South Seattle, South King County, Spokane, Tacoma and Yakima.

In the past year, 33 groups have expressed interest in opening public charter schools in Washington, 21 prospective founders have applied and eight charter schools have been approved.

No one else from Clark County has gone so far as to submit a notice of intent. Last year, a Battle Ground Public Schools teacher weighed opening an outdoors school at Camp Hope, a former Girl Scout camp, but he has not started the paperwork process.

Ovdiyenko’s vision is to operate a bilingual school, similar to language immersion.

“So far, we have a pretty big interest in Spanish and Russian,” said Ovdiyenko, who speaks English, Ukrainian and Russian.

Eventually, the school could offer additional languages, she said. Her group has sought direction from similar charter schools in Florida and California.

Ovdiyenko and her group have been visiting Latino groups, Russian churches and other groups to raise awareness, she said. They also are writing the application and are applying for grants.

The full application is due July 14. Approval decisions will be announced by October. In January, the first public charter schools were approved to open their doors to students in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Washington voters approved the charter law in November 2012. Public charter schools will open in communities across Washington, with the first such school opening in Seattle this fall.

To learn more about Bilingual Charter Academy, visit www.facebook.com/bilingedu.

To learn more about charter schools in Washington, visit www.governor.wa.gov/issues/education/commission/applicant.aspx.