"We've already been criticized in the Twitter-sphere" by people who suspect a new school would try to weed the "brown kids" out, McGalliard said.
Even some of the parents involved worry that their effort could veer into the sort of social redlining that will insulate their children from the realities of what they consider "urban living."
"Multiethnic is a draw for me," said Jared Birdsong, who has a 3 1/2-year-old daughter with wife Sonia Salinas. "I'm concerned that downtown could become a little bit of the Westside on the Eastside," he said. And the school could become "an enclave of affluence that shelters us and keeps us from connecting."
Part of the problem is that downtown is exceptionally fractionalized — the hip, middle-income loft and high-rise crowd versus the people trapped on skid row and the immigrants crammed into decrepit apartments.
The newcomers are driving development. They see a successful charter school as an investment — a way to push property values higher and attract long-term residents.
"Without it, this will always be a community in transition," said Misra, who works as a designer at a downtown architectural firm. "It will be the thing you do before 'real life' — move to downtown, have your fun, have a baby, and when your child turns 3, you move on.... That's not a sustainable model."
But it's a charged situation, the educational equivalent of gentrification of housing. Metro Charter families would be following the lead of parents in other mixed-income areas, like Hollywood and Larchmont, where disaffected parents launched their own charter schools, creating yuppie niches in largely immigrant neighborhoods.
Some see that as the downside of the charter movement; it siphons off progressive, moneyed, educated parents who create versions of diversity that they are comfortable with. But others see it as the salvation of public schools; a way to keep middle-class families from fleeing for private options.
McGalliard said Metro Charter is determined to reflect the diversity of downtown, which census figures show is now almost evenly divided between whites, blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans.
The school's founding board is a portrait of ethnic diversity. But the economic part of that equation may be harder to manage.
"It hasn't been easy, and it won't be," Misra acknowledged. But "this is about really belonging to this community and feeling that you gave something back."