EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 30, 2013

Charter schools flourish in Southern NH

State won't OK any new schools

A state moratorium has put a damper on the funding of new charter schools in the Granite State.

But three charters schools in Southern New Hampshire are thriving, including two approved only months before the state Department of Education implemented the moratorium last fall.

Soaring enrollment at The Birches Academy of Academics and Art in Salem is evidence charter schools are a popular alternative to other public schools, according to Birches officials.

The Birches opened last fall with 88 students in first through eighth grades and has made huge strides in its first year, head of school Dael Angelico-Hart said.

"We're really happy," Angelico-Hart said. "It's been a real fantastic year."

Next fall, there will be an additional 80 students at the school, she said. The school hopes to have at least 252 students in two years, she said.

But having 168 students enrolled next year means doubling the teaching staff, Angelico-Hart said.

Now, there are four full-time teachers and four teaching assistants, she said. The school also employs four part-time specialists who teach subjects such as art and music.

Working behind the scenes to help make the school a success are number of dedicated parents, volunteers and sponsors, according to Paula Patten, president of the school's foundation.

Ever since the Salem school was approved by the state in early 2012, the group has worked tirelessly to open the school and keep it running, she said.

Patten said the school exceeded its $60,000 fundraising goal by $20,000, and received about $30,000 in donated furniture and other items.

But the school isn't resting on its laurels, she said. Several fundraisers are planned this spring.

Although the school receives $5,450 from the state for each student, the statewide cost per pupil is about $13,000, according to Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston.

Weyler sponsored a bill this session that would provide an additional $1,100 per student, but it failed to gain enough support in the Legislature.

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