In February, the Blue Hills Foundation, a Sterling-based nonprofit corporation, submitted an application to the Loudoun County School Board to build the Loudoun Science Academy, a tax-supported charter school, in five years.
The Blue Hills Foundation defines charter schools as independent public schools designed by educators, parents and community members. Charter schools operate outside of the public-school system, but they are not private. They do not charge tuition and any student can attend, as long as there is space.
Blue Hills Foundation vice president Necmi Mutlu believes Loudoun County is in need of a small school environment. The proposed school would serve a maximum of 300 students and utilize its facility during and after school hours, including weekends.
"There is a need for it because of the immigrant community in Loudoun County," Mutlu said. "We would be able to spend more time with individual students, increase monitoring of students and protect them from the streets and gang violence."
Mutlu said it wouldn’t cost the public anything to build.
"We handle all the initial costs," he said.
The nonprofit organization already raised $350,000 for the initial costs of the school. In addition, the foundation is eligible for up to $500,000 in federal grants.
The Sterling-based group submitted the formal application to Deputy Superintendent Ned B. Waterhouse.
LAST WEEK, Loudoun County Public School administrators recommended the School Board deny the charter school request.
School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) is not convinced there is a need for a charter school in Loudoun County.
"[The Blue Hills Foundation] doesn’t show in its application how their school is going to be better than the current middle-school and high-school programs," Geurin said. "In my opinion, our middle-school program is one of the best in the state of Virginia."
In addition to after-school programs and one-on-one attention, the Loudoun Science Academy would offer its students advanced study diplomas, which are awarded to students who have successfully completed Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
"Over half of our graduates in Loudoun County earn advanced study diplomas," Geurin said. "Plus, we already have a science academy more rigorous than Thomas Jefferson, and way more rigorous, in my opinion, than anything they could provide."
The School Board approved renovations to build "world-class science labs" at Dominion High School’s Science Academy, Geurin added.
THE SCHOOL BOARD was scheduled to take action on the proposed charter school application at the Tuesday, June 13, meeting, but during the 4 p.m. closed session, staff recommended pushing the decision back.
At the public meeting at 6:30 p.m., Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick announced the School Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed charter school application at its Tuesday, June 27, meeting, at 6:30 p.m., at the Administration Building in Ashburn.
The Blue Hills Foundation will give a 15-minute Power Point presentation on the Loudoun Science Academy that night.
"We will take any questions at the meeting," Mutlu said.
"I don’t see a need," Geurin said. "I look forward to asking them questions at the public hearing."
The School Board will take action on the proposed charter school recommendation Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 6:30 p.m., at the Administration Building in Ashburn.