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Board tentatively approves four new charter schools

Four new public charter schools received conditional approval Monday night to open in fall 2011. The applications were among 13 reviewed by the D.C. Public Charter School Board: Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, Munde Verde Bilingual School, Shining Stars Montessori Academy and Richard Wright School for Journalism and Media Arts.

The schools will be formally granted charters pending completion of conditions outlined by the board.

Inspired Teaching, which intends to locate either in Ward 1, 4 or 6, will be run by an established D.C. nonprofit that trains teachers. One of the school's objectives is to give teachers-in-training a chance to partner with master educators. Munde Verde, which plans to operate in Wards 2, 5 or 6, will stress cross-cultural communication and the importance of environmentally sustainable policies. Shining Stars, which lists its location as 1616 Georgia Ave. in Ward 1, will bring the Montessori approach to at-risk children, Richard Wright, which plans to open in Ward 7, will emphasize a curriculum connecting students to the classics by focusing on strong writing skills and vocabulary.

All four will ramp up gradually. Inspired Teaching is envisioned as preschool-through-eighth grade, but will initially accept students only up to the third grade. Munde Verde will offer preschool through first grade, adding a grade each year until it serves students through the eighth grade. Shining Stars will begin with preschool and kindergarten classes before eventually expanding to eighth grade. Richard Wright will begin with 150 eighth- and ninth-graders before expanding to 12th grade.

Among the applicants that did not make the board's cut were two existing private schools. Kuumba Learning Center in Ward 8 wanted to continue operating as a private school but also open an additional public charter school. Naylor Road School in Southeast Washington told the board this year that remaining open as a tuition-based school had become untenable. Both currently draw students from the federal D.C. voucher program, which gives private school scholarships to students from low-income families. But the program is closed to new entrants and is probably winding down.

Also passed up was an application by University High Public Charter School, which proposed a school for at-risk youths on the campus of International Graduate University (IGU) on D Street SE. Neighbors raised concerns about the charter venture's ties to IGU, a struggling university that has lost its District license.

The charter board didn't approve any applications last year, and just two of 10 in 2008.

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By Bill Turque  |  April 20, 2010; 6:48 PM ET
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