Board Unanimously OKs Charter School

An independent public charter school, the first in Long Beach, won the unanimous approval of the Long Beach school board this week after organizers met with critics of the plan.

The Constellation Community Middle School could open as early as this fall if organizers can reach an agreement for using space at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in downtown Long Beach. Negotiations with the church are under way.

State education officials also must approve the charter proposal, but the education department typically offers no challenge once the local school board gives its OK.

Organizers plan to run a small school with four teachers, two bilingual aides and about 120 students, all of whom would enter as sixth-graders and remain in the school through eighth grade. The charter school was proposed by two teachers from Franklin Middle School.

Board members Ed Eveland and Jenny Oropeza had expressed concerns about the charter school before meeting with district administrators and backers of the plan. Charter school supporters also met with leaders of the union for non-teaching employees, who said they were worried that the charter school setup could cost jobs.

The school would operate with virtual independence under its own board of directors under charter-school laws passed by the state Legislature to encourage innovative education programs to improve student achievement. It will be funded through Long Beach Unified based on the number of students who enroll.

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