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Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • Beekman charter school hopefuls readying final application for OK


  • Their first meeting a few weeks ago attracted more than 100 parents.



    The Beekman Alumni and Friends Association's follow-up meeting inside Bonita Road Baptist Church last night drew about 40.


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  • Their first meeting a few weeks ago attracted more than 100 parents.

    The Beekman Alumni and Friends Association's follow-up meeting inside Bonita Road Baptist Church last night drew about 40.

    They were there to find out more about the process of starting the parish's first charter school, a move fostered by the Louisiana Department of Education in its reform bill passed by legislators earlier this year.

    “I think there's a consensus in the community that they want this charter school to happen,” said one parent in attendance, Chris Travis.

    “But I still have my doubts” it's going to happen, he added.

    Keith Huntsman, a spokesman for the group, told the visitors that the the group's charter application, about 300 pages long, will be ready to submit to the Morehouse Parish School Board by Sept. 1.

    From that point, the MPS board has 90 days to review the application and then vote for it or against.

    MPS recently hired a charter school consultant, on a contractual basis, to critique the anticipated application and make a recommendation to the board.

    Huntsman asked for a show of hands for those who would like to see a new high school in the parish.

    Most, if not everyone indicated favor.

    “The opportunity is now,” he said. “If it's turned down (by MPS), then we will go through the state (application). Either way this is gonna get done … but there's no guarantees.”

    The two biggest questions Huntsman said residents have raised are policies on athletic participation and discipline.

    Because many junior high age children continue to leave Morehouse to attend schools elsewhere, Huntsman said a successful sports program in a highly rated school is likely to attract more parents, more residents and, thus, a stronger tax base for the parish.

    A charter school that falls under the umbrella supervision of the local school district, which is the application format the Beekman group elected to pursue, enables it to write its own disciplinary policy that can be, to a certain extent, more rigorous than the state's.

    The group appears eager to address that, as well as foster volunteer hours from parents of students.

    Huntsman said the organization has established a seven-person board of directors. The group is just starting a fundraising campaign that will be first used to generate money to pay attorney's fees.

    He said the most complicated part of the application is budget related.

    “If you've ever done your own taxes, it's like that, but worse. There are lots of things in the budget to take into account,” Huntsman said.

    If approved, Beekman looks to expand from a pre-kindergarten to eighth grade school to 10th grade starting in the 2013-2014 school year.

    The current school zone for Beekman attendance would not change in its first year of charter school operations.

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