Parents, children and teachers at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The Commonwealth's first charter elementary school has been granted another five years to prove itself.
A Richmond Public Schools review team recommended the school's charter be renewed for only three years. However, Patrick Henry Board of Directors co-chairwoman Deborah Corliss says the school needs five years in order to secure enough funding for required building improvements.
"We need funding, and funders are requiring that we have at least a five-year charter renewal," said Corliss.
Some School Board members had expressed doubts about the school's performance. Student math scores dropped last year. Patrick Henry received a "warning" status for accreditation. Corliss says that many schools across Virginia drew lower math scores because of new, tougher state tests.
Other concerns were Patrick Henry's ongoing effort to finish creating its curriculum.
"We have an integrated curriculum framework, and that curriculum framework is being developed as each year we see how things work," explained Corliss.
Parents of students at Patrick Henry expressed no concern with the quality of their children's education, at a public hearing in front of the Richmond School Board Monday evening.
"I get kind of emotional when I'm talking about my daughter, so I'll keep it short," said one mother. "I love Patrick Henry."
"I love the environment at Patrick Henry. I couldn't be happier," said another mom, holding her young daughter's hand at the podium.
The School Board voted to renew Patrick Henry's charter for five years. However, the school will be required to meet a list of conditions.
"I don't have any concerns that we're not going to be on top of (the school's) progress," said board member Kim Gray.
Patrick Henry plans to expand by adding another 50 students for next year, ultimately reaching a maximum of 350 children.
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