The board of trustees for Princeton’s only charter school voted Monday night to expand the school on Bunn Drive.
Expansion plans for the Princeton Charter School include adding three classrooms, a larger cafeteria, additional spaces for special education, and possibly two “flex” classrooms to the school. The added classroom space would allow the school to accept more students at the kindergarten or first-grade level instead of waiting until the third grade.
Head of School Larry Patton and Board of Trustees Chairman Paul Josephson informed parents of the decision in a letter Tuesday.
“The Board of Trustees and the Administration have been hard at work on this plan and are very excited about what it will mean for the future of Princeton Charter School,” reads the letter.
The school will apply to the New Jersey Department of Education for two changes to its charter.
The school will ask that kindergarten be the main point of entrance at the school. Officials said that currently, the school has a staggered admission structure. About half of the students enter in kindergarten, the second half enters in third grade, and the school adds another two students in fourth grade.
The school is asking the New Jersey Department of Education for permission to have two homeroom classes in every grade, including kindergarten, first, and second grade. Currently the school has only one class for these grades. The school also wants to enroll two additional students in the third grade, bringing the total to 48 third-graders, rather than adding the two in fourth grade.
“We want to bring everyone on board as soon as possible to benefit from our curriculum. We believe that these structural enrollment changes will serve the academic and social and emotional needs of our students better than our existing admissions structure,” reads the letter. “Finally, although we will be adding students to our school, we will remain a small school and are confident that adding students in kindergarten rather than third grade will strengthen the bonds that make small schools excel — the bonds between teachers, students, and family.”
School officials are also seeking permission to use a weighted lottery that would allow officials to give an extra chance for admission to students who qualify as economically disadvantaged. The New Jersey Department of Education approved charter school weighted lotteries in December of 2015.
“By fourth grade wide gaps in achievement emerge that cannot be explained by variations in ability alone. Disturbingly but not surprisingly, these gaps often correspond to children’s socioeconomic differences and varying levels of parental support. Some are created by inconsistent or even ineffective treatment of core areas such as language arts and mathematics. Princeton Charter School cannot hope to close these gaps entirely, but it believes that a stronger education program will help to bridge them,” reads the letter, citing the school’s charter.
“From our founding, Princeton Charter School has been marked by a commitment to challenge and support children from diverse backgrounds,” reads the letter. “We know that the socioeconomic achievement gap continues to be a concern in Princeton. We see the use of the newly approved weighted lottery as absolutely in keeping with our founding mission.”
The school’s current practice of giving siblings an admissions preference in the lottery will continue, school officials said.
“We are convinced that the changes will make Princeton Charter School an even stronger school and will serve both our existing students and our future students well,” reads the letter.
Construction would begin this summer, and additional students would be added to the kindergarten and first-grade student body for the 2017-18 academic year if the state approves the school’s charter changes.