New charter schools proposed for Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn

Date Published: 
August 15, 2017
Linda Greenstein, The Boston Globe
News Type: 

Three new charter schools, with room for 1,160 students, have been proposed for Haverhill, Lawrence, and Lynn, while the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education also is considering the KIPP charter school’s request to add 1,014 students in Lynn.

Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP in Massachusetts, said its current Lynn schools have a waiting list “at least equal” to the number of new slots requested. KIPP proposes a second elementary school; a second middle school; and an expanded high school in Lynn. The charter district currently enrolls about 1,312 students.

Frank DeVito, founder of the Equity Lab Charter School, said he is confident the state will approve its concept of embracing diversity and focusing on college and career readiness. If approved, Equity Lab would open in 2018 with 160 middle school students and gradually expand to 640 in grades 5 through 12.

Equity Lab submitted an application last year but was not granted a charter by state education officials.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Lynn had 15,299 students in its traditional public schools. If the Equity Lab charter and the KIPP Academy expansion are approved, it would potentially move more that 10 percent of the city’s students to independent but publicly funded charter schools.

Under state law, there is cap of 9 percent of the local school budget going to charter school tuition. However, in lower performing districts such as Lynn, Lawrence, and Haverhill, the cap on charter tuition is raised to 18 percent.

The Phoenix Charter Academy Network is proposing to open its third school in 2018, a 250-seat high school in Lawrence for students who also come from Methuen and Haverhill. Phoenix also operates schools in Chelsea and Springfield.

Since Haverhill is under the 9 percent cap, that should streamline a proposal by Wildflower Montessori for “small school houses” that would enroll 270 students in kindergarten through Grade 8 starting in 2018. According to Frances McLaughlin of Massachusetts Wildflower Montessori, kindergartens would be combined with existing Wildflower preschools, two of which operate in Haverhill. The upper grades would be located in Haverhill’s Acre and Mount Washington neighborhoods.

The state’s existing 78 charter schools serve more than 42,000 students, or 4.5 percent of all public school students

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will announce by mid-September which groups — if any — will be invited to submit full proposals due by Nov. 1.

Linda Greenstein can be reached at .