Museum School charter denied by state Board of Education, clearing the way for a state charterThe Museum School of Avondale Estates Executive Director Katherine Kelbaugh. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Avondale Estates, GA – Leaders of the Museum School of Avondale Estates are excited and nervous following the state Board of Education’s decision to deny the school’s charter renewal petition.
The denial clears the way for the Museum School to become a state charter school, meaning Museum School would no longer be authorized by DeKalb County Schools.
“It feels weird to be denied by the state Board of Education and be happy,” Board Chair Kelly Swinks said.
The state BOE this month denied the school’s charter renewal petition in an 8-6 vote, according to Swinks. The state’s denial followed the DeKalb County School Board’s decision to give the school a three-year conditional renewal. The Museum School urged the state BOE to deny the renewal petition to pursue becoming a state charter. Since 2013, when the current state charter schools commission was developed, the Georgia BOE has never denied a renewal petition approved by a local board, state BOE Chair Jason Downey said.
Until now, that is.
The state Charter Schools Commission is set to vote at its April 27 meeting on whether to make the Museum School a state charter. The Museum School already has a leg up in that process.
Records show that Museum School has already gone through the vetting process with the SCSC and would be recommended for a state charter if things didn’t work out with DeKalb County.
There’s still the issue of ownership of the building. The Museum School plans to stay at its current address, the old Forrest Hills Elementary building located on Forrest Boulevard in greater Decatur. But there’s a dispute between the school and the district about the lease for the building.
The Museum School in its renewal application to DeKalb County Schools asked the district to turn over the deed for the building.
The county wants to change the terms of the school’s lease, so the school community won’t be reimbursed for the cost of building improvements they’ve paid for.
Brian Deutsch, an attorney for The Museum School who sits on its advisory council, said the school is prepared to fight in court to keep the building. State law requires school districts to make unused buildings available to charter schools.
“In the event Dekalb makes the not a great PR move to kick us out of the school, there is a statute that allows us specifically as a local school that transfers to the [State Charter Schools Commission] to remain in that property,” he said. “We would have to obviously pay a reasonable fee for that.”
Museum School Executive Director Katherine Kelbaugh said becoming a state charter wouldn’t mean any changes for current students and staff.
“In terms of day to day operation, our students and teachers aren’t going to feel much of a difference,” Kelbaugh said. “We’re going to operationally have more autonomy and flexibility, for instance with [state testing]. We’ll be able to chose our own testing calendar, and create our own policies based on the state’s guidance. In terms of teachers and students, they shouldn’t feel much of a difference.”
Decaturish published an in-depth story exploring all the legal quirks and intricacies of the Museum School’s pursuit of a state charter. To read that story, click here.
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