Charter school enrollment on the rise

The goal of any school is to provide a quality education for students; teachers at Excell Academy for Higher Learning have tried to do just that for the past decade.

"We started our first year of operation in 2001 with 65 students in north Minneapolis," said Sabrina Williams, founder of the charter school now located in Brooklyn Park.

Williams has seen the school thrive since that first day.

"We've grown from 65 students K–4, to now Pre–K through 8, well over 450 students," she said.

The story of Excell Academy's growth is reflected in charter schools across the nation. In Minnesota alone, nearly 40,000 students attend charter schools. A report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows that charter schools located within the Robbinsdale School District saw double digit enrollment growth last school year.

"After a few years, I could tell it was gonna be something special," said physical education teacher Aaron Hjermstad, who has been with Excell Academy since day one.

"To see the growth, not only in the number of students, but the number of programs we have and the number of activities we have to offer for the students has been incredible," he added.

Charter schools are publicly funded, but independent of district school boards. The distinction allows parents to send their kids to a charter school without have to worry about district boundaries affecting their enrollment choices.

"We have students from north Minneapolis, from Robbinsdale, from Crystal, from Golden Valley, from Plymouth, from Maple Grove," Williams said.

As for what's driving them to charter schools, Williams says it's the small class sizes and one–on–one attention.

"Students and parents feel comfortable, they feel welcome, they feel like this is their school, there's ownership in the school, so it's not just the district school," she added.

Williams admits that they've recently had to resort to marketing to recruit students, rather than relying on word of mouth like in years past, but she says that charter schools have staying power.

"There is just a special feel in a charter school that you don't get in most traditional public schools, in my opinion," she said.

Delane Cleveland

Nov. 15, 2012 


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