City council votes for charter school expansion
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 06:05
The Newark City Council unanimously voted in favor of the charter school’s expansion at their bi-monthly meeting last night.
Newark Charter School Fund requested rezoning for 20.63 acres of property in the Newark Interstate Business Park, located near Elkton Road, and asked for development approval for the Newark charter upper school, according to the official request for the subdivision.
The upper school will host facilities for junior and senior high school students, including outdoor playing fields.
A charter is a public school that admits students through a lottery system and does not take race or income into consideration. With the expansion, the school can double its size and more students will be admitted.
Lisa Goodman, a lawyer from Wilmington who concentrates in land use and zoning law, spoke on behalf of the Newark Charter School.
“The question tonight is not if there is going to be a high school, but where the high school is going to be,” Goodman said. “We believe this is an ideal site for the high school.”
She said the location is the best choice for the charter school.
“This site is particularly well-suited for a school,” Goodman said. “If you had to find the ideal setting, this is pretty much it.”
Goodman said members of the community worried that because of the expansion, there would be more buses that would lead to traffic congestion. She addressed residents’ concerns and said only three buses would be added to the 19-bus fleet.
A group of opposing residents, including Rosanne Murphy, a former teacher in the Christiana School District, presented potential negative effects the upper school could have on the community. They said they think the school does not fairly admit students, adding that there are more high-income students and not many minorities.
Murphy said the school does not need additional students.
“[The charter school] has more than adequate capacity now,” she said. “[The charter school] has significantly excess capacity already.”
Gregory Meece, Newark Charter School director, said the charter school has become a vital part of Delaware’s public school system, despite mixed reactions to its creation. He said the expansion will help revitalize Elkton Road and encourage families to explore parts of Newark they might not have visited before.
“The local business community encourages [the charter school expansion] because it’s vital to economic interest,” Meece said. “Property values depend on educational choices for families.”
District 6 Councilman Stu Markham supported the Newark Charter School’s initiative and said he wondered if the issue would have been as controversial if a school other than the charter school was asking for the vacant property.
“The project is going to happen no matter what, it’s just a matter of where it goes,” Markham said. “Is this the best use for this property? I think it makes sense.”
Luke Chapman, District 5 councilman, said he supported the expansion of the charter school, but said it is unfortunate the issue is upsetting some members of the community.
“This is not an issue where the community is becoming united,” Chapman said. “It’s an issue where we’re seeing a division and I’m saddened by that.”
Mayor Vance A. Funk III was the final member of the council to declare his support. He said he voted yes because of educational and economic reasons.
“The purpose of Newark is to manufacture education,” Funk said. “We’ll also get a nice building permit fee.”