charter school, jen coleman, old mission peninsula education foundation, ompef
OMPEF Board Member Jen Coleman at the community meeting March 6, 2017 | Jane Boursaw Photo

At a meeting held at the Jolly Pumpkin on March 6, the Old Mission Peninsula Education Foundation (OMPEF) chatted with the Old Mission community about their intent to establish a self-managed charter school at the Old Mission Peninsula School. Their goal is to raise $2 million in funding and open the school for classes in Fall 2018.

In January, the OMPEF reached an agreement to purchase the school building and property from Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) for $1.1 million. The agreement includes TCAPS continuing to provide educational services to the school through June 2018, with OMPEF taking possession of the building and property in July 2018.

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TCAPS has voted to redistrict Old Mission students to Eastern Elementary School in Fall 2018. This leaves the OMPEF open to either negotiate a new agreement with TCAPS or launch its own school. OMPEF will not formally decide which route to take before May, but both board and community members at the meeting expressed support for the idea.

Erica Walsh, an Old Mission parent and certified teacher who previously served as a charter school principal in Warren, Michigan, noted that charter schools receive per-pupil funding from the state, must follow state standards and testing requirements, are open to all students up to enrollment capacity, and must staff the school with “certified and highly qualified” teachers.

A charter school with 200 students, for example, would bring in $1.5 million annually in state funding. As a nonprofit charter, the school could also bring in funds through the foundation.

In addition to small class sizes, OMPEF board members noted other programs the school could offer, including daycare, pre- and post-school enrichment programs, community classes, summer camps, sports clinics, community basketball games, and even a farmer’s market. One of OMPEF’s goals is to partner with the community to fully utilize the building and its property, said board member Susan Shipman.

Board member Jen Coleman added the possibility of Old Mission becoming an EL Education school. Formerly “Expeditionary Learning,” the model is based on Outward Bound and encourages exploratory student learning and interdisciplinary group studies.

As for whether the school would be tuition-based, that’s off the table, said OMPEF Vice President Corey Phelps. “Will there be tuition? Absolutely not, 100 percent no on that,” he said. “There will never be tuition at this school. I want every kid to be able to attend this school.”

OMPEF received its official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS last month, and the building sale is set to close in mid-April. Board members are preparing for the next phase of the project – fundraising.

OMPEF is hoping to raise $2 million for the school by January 2018. That number will cover either a five-year contract with TCAPS or the launch of the charter school, said Phelps, including building upgrades, curriculum, administrators and faculty.

“I’m so glad we brought the school home where it belongs,” said Coleman. “Now we just need to do the right thing with it.”

For more information and to learn how you can donate, visit the OMPEF’s website.

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