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Education panel approves 2 charter schools for fall ’99

SHARE Education panel approves 2 charter schools for fall ’99

Two charter schools will become part of Utah's educational landscape in fall 1999, focusing on American sign language and the performing arts.

The Jean Massieu School and The Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts Wednesday were approved by a Utah Board of Education committee. The decision will be ratified in September.Charter schools are specialized public schools offering increased autonomy, choice and more parental involvement opportunities. The schools cannot discriminate on whom they enroll. They must distribute state-mandated tests and follow the state core curriculum.

Charter school legislation passed last March permits eight pilot schools. The schools will share $500,000 in start-up funds based on need and receive state per-pupil and ongoing funds plus one-time money for books and supplies.

The two schools will open in fall 1999, with Tuacahn School at the Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts in Ivins, Washington County. The Jean Massieu School has requested classroom space in Butler or Bella Vista elementary schools in the Jordan School District, said Superintendent Barry Newbold.

"One issue we're trying to be very careful about, yet up front about, is guaranteeing availability space," he said. Two-thirds of the district's elementary schools are year-round due to growth.

The Jean Massieu School also has explored obtaining a portable classroom to place on a Granite District school campus, according to its application form. The district now houses satellite programs of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

"We are very excited. We've already been doing some recruiting," said Jeff Allen, co-administrator of the Jean Massieu School, to be set up by the Utah Deaf Education and Literacy Foundation. The school will serve 20 students, preschool through third grade, and hopes to employ deaf teachers.

Lee Robinson, superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said parents of deaf children have long desired an American Sign Language program. But he is concerned whether the experimental Utah charter school program will be funded sufficiently and locate enough qualified instructors.

"We'll be of assistance as long as it's not injurious to any of our programs. It is an option that is recognized. We're certainly not going to stand in their way for doing that," Robinson said.

The Tuacahn school will offer a "sophisticated" college prep academic program plus instruction in music, dance and theater arts by professionals or veteran instructors with state teaching certification.

The school will be led by Gerald R. Sherratt, former Southern Utah University president and president of the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, which includes a 42,000 square-foot school with eight classrooms, 13 studios, a theater, 20 pianos and orchestra equipment.

"We have an exemplary facility," Sherratt said, adding 30 or so parents have inquired about the school. "This can be one of the top high schools for the performing arts, we hope, in the nation."

The school will serve 225 students; 75 will be out-of-state students, perhaps from Nevada, Arizona and California, charged $4,750 in annual tuition.

Public school tuition for out-of-state students is allowed by law, said State Associate Superintendent Steve Laing. Students, however, cannot be required to audition to attend.