Alma Del Mar has plans to expand; mayor says he’ll oppose the move

Date Published: 
August 1, 2018
Aimee Chiavaroli
News Type: 

NEW BEDFORD — Alma del Mar applied Wednesday to the state for 1,188 more charter school seats and, if approved, is planning to add two schools in the city.

“We’re fully grown out as a school and yet we’re still seeing such a demand, such a need for what we do and we’re seeing the opportunity to grow what we do,” said Will Gardner, founder and executive director of Alma del Mar.

Mayor Jon Mitchell, however, says he isn’t on board.

“I’m deeply troubled by the board’s lack of appreciation for New Bedford’s financial constraints,” said Mitchell, who is chairman of the School Committee by virtue of his office. “I intend to oppose it because I don’t believe that this is the right thing for the city.”

Mitchell said “the reality is that the system to fund charter schools in Massachusetts is broken.” Until it’s changed, the district can’t afford any additional charter seats, he said.

The mayor also maintained that Alma del Mar “has demonstrated itself not to be a constructive partner with the school district.”

Submission of the application, which was due at 5 p.m. Wednesday, comes about two years after Alma del Mar opened a 43,000-square-foot school at 515 Belleville Ave. in the city’s North End. The school has more than 400 students in grades K-8. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Alma del Mar has a waitlist of 563 students, which Gardner said is typical each year.

In New Bedford, approximately 1,225 additional charter seats could be awarded, according to the DESE. Information was not available Wednesday as to whether anyone else had applied for charter seats through new schools.