- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - A small school district in Western Oregon plans to convert its only school into a charter school.

The Alsea School Board voted for the switch last month, and will formalize its charter document next week, The Gazette-Times reported (https://is.gd/rGKiYr ).

Superintendent and principal Marc Thielman said the change will help efforts to recruit more students from outside Alsea. The district southwest of Corvallis has 140 students, and about 20 percent come from outside the district.

Charter schools are allowed to advertise using public money in a way traditional schools can’t, and are given more freedom to run buses into neighboring districts.

Thielman said the district needs an enrollment boost because of stagnant state funding and rate increases for the state Public Employees Retirement System. The combination, he said, is draining reserves.

The district had a fund balance of nearly $750,000 at the end of 2015-16. At the end of this school year, it’s projected to be $315,000, and further declines are expected without more students.

Charter schools operate free from many state regulations, but must meet the same academic performance standards as traditional schools.

Thielman said the charter the board is finalizing will specify that only licensed teachers can teach in Alsea, and the school won’t have a separate charter board. The district has been promoting this as a “no-change charter,” saying it primarily wants the recruiting flexibility.

Though Alsea does not offer as many programs as some of the schools it competes against, district officials pitch a small-school atmosphere that parents and students might prefer to larger schools.

“We can work with every student on an individual level,” said Katie Sapp, the district’s business manager.

Sapp added that part of the appeal of studying in Alsea is that no students are cut from any sports teams, and there is no charge for sports.

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Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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