Backers of the proposed Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School say they will officially ask the Menlo Park City School District to sponsor their school at the board's Sept. 9 meeting.
Nearly 150 people, including Menlo Park district Superintendent, Maurice Ghysels and the board President Joan Lambert, attended two informational meetings on the planned charter school on Aug. 24 in Palo Alto.
Once the proposed charter and a petition from parents supporting the school is presented, the district has 30 days to schedule a public hearing and 60 days to make its decision on the request.
Charter school backers say their goal is to open in the fall of 2015 with two classes each of kindergartners and first-graders, totaling at least 80 students.
If the district denies the request, it can be appealed to the San Mateo County Board of Education and ultimately to the California State Board of Education.
The district has scheduled a study session on charter school laws and process for Sept. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the TERC building at the district offices, 181 Encinal Ave. in Atherton. They will not discuss any specifics of the proposal.
"This is all new to us," said Ms. Lambert. "We are really trying to do our homework and make sure we are doing everything correctly."
State law requires the petition contain signatures from district parents of at least half the number of students the school plans to have its first year.
Carol Cunningham, a Menlo Park district parent who has led the push for the school, said the backers of the school have the needed signatures. However, she said, they hope to get enough to ask the district to provide classrooms for the new school. Under state law, a charter school with 80 students must be provided facilities by the district in which it operates.
At the informational meeting, Ms. Cunningham and other speakers said the proposed school will not only teach most subjects in Mandarin, but will use other innovative educational methods, such as project-based learning in which children study academic subjects via broad-based projects; personalized learning, based on each child's ability level; and methods that emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving.
Children will learn to read, write and speak Mandarin. Several experts in the language education field presented statistics showing that students in local Mandarin immersion schools usually perform better than their same-school peers on standardized testing in math and English.
While the details of the school's operation will be contained in its proposed charter, speakers said that if more students apply to the school than it has room for, priority will be given to district residents and children of school staff or school founders, and then will be assigned via lottery.
If spaces are not filled, out-of-district students may attend. Grace Mah, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, said funding for charter schools is set by the state at a per-pupil rate which is paid by the district they live in. Currently, she said, that base rate is $7,643 per student. "The funding follows the student," she said. Charter school may also accept donations.
"We're really looking forward to collaborating with the district to create a high quality charter school that will be a win-win solution for everyone, the district, the parents and the community," said Ms. Cunningham after the meeting.