The public will have another chance to comment about the Mandarin immersion charter school proposed for the Menlo Park City School District when the San Mateo County Board of Education holds a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 7. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the San Mateo County Office of Education at 101 Twin Dolphin Drive in Redwood City.
Backers of the proposed Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School appealed to the county board following the district's November decision to deny their petition to start a new charter school within the district.
After a presentation by the board's attorney, Claire Cunningham, the board will hear a 20-minute presentation from backers of the charter school and then a 20-minute presentation by the school district. After questions from the board, members of the public will be allowed to speak for a maximum of two minutes each.
Comments may also be made to the board on the county office's website.
The board has set aside time for discussion; but is not scheduled to vote on the appeal until its Feb. 4 meeting. That meeting is also scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the office of education.
If the county board does not approve the charter, a final appeal can be made to the state board of education. If either board approves the appeal, the school will be allowed to operate in the district, and the district could be required to provide facilities for the school if it ends up with more than 80 students who live in the district.
On Nov. 12, the school district's governing board unanimously denied the charter school's petition to start a new Mandarin immersion school that would eventually have 450 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The board used as grounds for denial a 56-page report by the district's leadership team and consultants pointing out a number of problems with the plan for the charter school, along with some supplemental findings not included in the report.
The appeal, filed Dec. 5, is a 688-page document containing a 51-page rebuttal to the district's report.
The San Mateo County Office of Education has posted the appeal, a timeline for action, and a form for making online comments to the county school board on the charter proposal on its website.
Many district parents and teachers had protested the charter school proposal, and a public hearing and the board meeting at which the petition was considered were both packed with supporters and opponents.
The petition to start the charter school was presented to the district on Sept. 12. Under state law, the district had only 60 days to consider the petition, a 218-page document with an additional 118 pages of appendices.
The county and state boards are allowed to consider new information when judging the charter petition, according to the section of the state education code governing charter schools. However, the original petition may not be changed, except to reflect the county or the state as the chartering agency.
The charter school petition says the school would open in the fall of 2015 with two classes each of kindergarten and first grade and a total of 100 students. One grade level would be added each year. The backers have asked the district for 10,000 square feet of classrooms and other facilities for 2015, saying the school would serve at least 80 students from the district. The district has turned down the facilities request, but charter backers said they believe they qualify for the facilities.
The charter school must be approved by May 7 this year to preserve a $375,000 grant for start-up costs from the federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program, via the Charter Schools Division of the California Department of Education.