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August 29. 2013 10:28PM

New Derry charter school will put emphasis on the arts

DERRY — After waiting more than a year to receive state approval, Wendie Leweck is ready to open the doors of the Granite State Arts Academy this weekend — at least to members of the public.

Granite State Arts Academy, a charter school, was approved by the Board of Education on Aug. 19. The arts-based school, which will serve grades nine through 12, is the fourth new charter school to be approved this summer after board members lifted a moratorium on new charter schools in New Hampshire. The three other new schools are the Gate City Charter School for the Arts in Nashua, Founders Academy in Londonderry and Mountain Village Charter School in Plymouth. All three received state approval in July.

Leweck said she plans to open Granite State Arts Academy, with 160 students enrolled, in August 2014.

“Now that we have the green light, we have a tremendous amount of work to do,” said Leweck, of Exeter. “We are very much looking forward to meeting members of the community.”

The school will offer core academics paired up with studies in four areas of the arts: dance, music (including voice), theater and visual arts. The school plans to open next fall with students in all four grades, capping enrollment at 40 pupils per grade. If enrollment exceeds available spots, a waiting list will be formed and a lottery system used as openings occur.The total number of approved charter schools in the state now stands at 22.

In September 2012, the Board of Education announced a moratorium on new charter schools due to a lack of funds available to cover the adequacy payments of $5,450 per student the state doles out to charter schools. The state budget passed in June includes $3.4 million in funds for new charter schools. A new rule saying Board of Education members can no longer deny a charter school application due to lack of state funding alone is also now in effect.

In 2003, the state began a 10-year pilot program giving the state board the power to approve up to 20 charter schools. Before that, charters needed approval from the state and local boards, which slowed the process so much that no charter schools opened in New Hampshire between 1995, when they were first approved, and 2003. In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill making the pilot program permanent and lifting that 20-school cap. State enrollment figures for the 2012-2013 school year show students attending charter schools account for about 1.5 percent of all school-age children in New Hampshire, or over 3,000. That number has jumped since 2007, when only 325 students attended charter schools. Leweck and other founding members of Granite State Arts Academy are holding two open houses the next two Saturdays, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, at 10 a.m., 16 Route 111, Building No. 4, in Derry, the tentative location for the school.

Those interested in serving on the school’s board of trustees can download a form and find more information at www.granitestateartsacademy.com.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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