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Good intentions not enough to save school

In 2006, the Curry Coastal Pilot wrote an editorial encouraging the Brookings-Harbor community and the school district to give the newly formed Upper Chetco Charter School a fighting chance.

Today, three years later, the charter school is on life support and the board is reluctantly preparing to end the once-promising endeavor to provide an alternative form of education to our children.

If a wealthy benefactor or two don’t step forward in a week with donations of up to $30,000 in a week, the school will close by the end April, just five weeks before the end of the school year.

What went wrong?

There are many factors – and fingers can be pointed at many individuals – but the key question at this point is, does the community want a charter school?

Some people do, including those who have generously donated large sums to the school in the recent past.

Some don’t – they don’t see a need in this small rural town.

And, after more than three and a half years, many more people remain undecided. That is the critical factor.

The charter school has faced many hurdles since its inception – declining enrollment, budget cuts and an ambivalent school district – but the biggest one is its inability to convince the undecided to give it a try.

Parents seek and expect their childrens’ school to have stability and a clear mission statement. Since day one, charter school organizers have been unable to provide that reassurance. They sabotaged their good intentions by trying to be all things to all students.

Many parents liked the idea of a charter school but were unwilling to let their children be part of a grand experiment. They took a “wait and see” stance.

So did we. In our 2006 editorial, we urged people to give the school at least a year, if not two, to prove itself. It’s been three years and the school, despite the success of some of its students, is worse off –it recently laid off a teacher, it can’t pay the rent and can’t maintain enrollment.

It would be nice to see someone come forward and donate enough money so current students can finish up the school year without disruption.

Beyond that, we can no longer offer our support and encouragement. Despite the best intentions – and the hard work of its volunteers, teachers, staff and board – the grand experiment is over.

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