Efforts are underway for what could become Thurston County’s first charter school.
The Ducere Group will hold two community forums this month for people to learn about its plans to apply for state authorization of a charter school. If approved, the school would open in fall 2018.
“We’re looking at the North Thurston School District area, somewhere in Lacey,” said Calyn Holdaway, the nonprofit’s director.
The Ducere Group applied for a charter school in Pierce County in 2013. Its application for what was known as “Village Academy” wasn’t approved, but Holdaway said they received good feedback on it.
“We are revamping our application so it’s more clearly worded, so it’s more inclusive of non-special needs kids, as well as special needs kids,” Holdaway said.
She and her husband, who is in the Army and stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, moved to Lacey about two years ago. All three of their children, who are ages 12, 15 and 16, have special needs. Their oldest child is autistic.
“We’ve had a pretty rocky road with access to education for my kids,” Holdaway said. Her children attend North Thurston schools for part of the day and are home-schooled the rest of the time.
Holdaway said she believes a charter school would generate a lot of local interest, particularly among military families.
The deadline for organizations to submit a Notice of Intent to apply for a new charter school is Feb. 17, and full proposals are due in early March, according to the Washington State Charter School Commission.
Holdaway said she’s hoping people will attend the community forums, support the nonprofit’s application, and get involved in the school.
“We are interested in partnerships with organizations and individuals to assist us in this,” Holdaway said.
One of the organizations that the Ducere Group is partnering with is the Special Needs PTA, which was recently founded by Karen Anderson of Yelm.
Anderson, whose 5-year-old son is nonverbal and autistic, said charter schools in other states have proven successful for serving students with special needs.
“Currently there’s not much for any student who has special needs,” she said. “ … There are so many families that the education system is lacking for them, and we need an environment where our students feel safe and are able to learn.”
Holdaway said she’d like the charter school to partner with nonprofits such as GRuB and Habitat for Humanity to offer hands-on learning experiences for students.
“We want to create a very visual, kinesthetic school model that can embrace all kids so that kids can learn in a way they learn best,” Holdaway said.
The Ducere Group also would like to be a partner with North Thurston Public Schools.
“We want to have a cooperative relationship, not a competitive one,” Holdaway said.
North Thurston Public Schools spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve said district administrators hadn’t heard about a charter school application in the area.
She said the district already works with publicly funded educational programs, such as Washington Virtual Academies and Running Start.
“If the state were to authorize a charter school to reside in our area, we would certainly work with their organization,” Schrieve said. “We wouldn’t view it as any different than any of those (other programs).”
The Ducere Group has scheduled two community forums for people to learn about its plans to apply for authorization of a charter school within North Thurston Public Schools. The forums will be:
▪ 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 27 at Lacey Timberland Library, 500 College St. SE, Lacey.
▪ 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 30 at Forrey’s Forza, 130 Marvin Road SE, Lacey.
An RSVP is requested. For more information, contact Calyn Holdaway at email@example.com, call 253-353-4230 or go to www.theduceregroup.org.