- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

A Northwest D.C. charter high school will close its doors at the end of the month, leaving about 50 students who struggled with traditional schooling or have been in trouble with the law to quickly find a new school by this fall.

The Associates for the Renewal in Education (ARE) Public Charter School told the D.C. Public Charter School Board on Tuesday that it will give up its charter because it is too difficult to run the operation. School officials said the school had low test scores and a 60 percent attendance rate.

The school has been on probation by the charter-school board since July because it was not able to comply with special-education requirements, said Tom Loughlin, the charter-school board’s chairman. It is the first school under the board’s purview to shut down.

“It’s unfortunate, but the school has been struggling for a long time,” he said. “They’ve had a real significant difficulty in implementing the special-education requirements.” The school is located at 45 P St. NW.

Mr. Loughlin said he believes the school’s fate will not be matched by the 20 others the board oversees. Three are on probation. Those schools are SouthEast Academy of Scholastic Evidence Public Charter School in Southeast; Washington Mathematics, Science and Technology Public Charter School in Southeast; and New School for Enterprise and Development Public Charter School in Northeast.

“We have other schools that serve difficult populations,” he said. “I think this situation is unique to the school. Clearly, the challenges are great, but we have schools that have a lot of success.”

The charter-school board reviewed the school’s operations Jan. 29, when it found that “although the team conducted its visit during exam period, it observed very little real instruction. The team observed students leaving class without permission, and even witnessed a television set tuned to cartoons during a scheduled class period.”

The review also concludes that there is concern about the “level of attention to a coherent high school curriculum” and that there was no clear process by which special-education students were identified when they enrolled at the school. Nine students will graduate from the school when the spring semester ends Monday.

Mr. Loughlin said the school’s decision to close came shortly before the board was scheduled to review the its operations this summer. He said he could not speculate on whether the board would have revoked the school’s charter after that review.

In a two-page letter to the charter-school board, Paul Wright, the school’s chairman and treasurer, notified board members that the school will shut down. But Mr. Wright also stated in the June 5 letter that the District-based ARE Public Charter School Inc., which oversees the school, would continue to strive to offer better education for troubled students.

“The students who came through our doors had little success in traditional settings, and many — if not all — came to us with a long history of violence in their brief lives,” Mr. Wright wrote.

ARE Inc. has received city government contracts to operate child-care centers at schools, administer group homes for abused and neglected children and juvenile delinquents, and provide summer work to thousands of teenagers.

Mr. Wright also wrote that the lack of violence at the school and the number of children who attend it attested to the school’s strength. “We believe, as well, that their behavior in response to our safe environment carries over to the rest of their lives,” he wrote in the letter.

Jamie, a 17-year-old junior who did not want to give her last name, said she appreciated the freedom and the teachers at ARE. “It’s a nice school, but a lot of people don’t come to school,” she said.

She said she doesn’t know which school she will attend next fall. But she said school administrators have spoken to each student to find out which school would be a good fit.

Thomas Gore, executive director of ARE Public Charter School Inc., was out of the office yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Teachers and other administrators at the school declined to comment.

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