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We did a local charter school for three years with older DS from grades 3-5. I don't know how they work in your state but in NC they get the money per pupil for education but get no support for buildings, transportation, etc.
They had a strong emphasis on learning the basics to where it was second nature - math facts and increasing their speed at reading while still comprehending. For lack of other description they were very orderly in everything they did. Very few discipline problems. The school environment was overall very good.
I thought the academic program was doing a a lot of good for DS until he went back to traditional public school in 6th grade and he struggled in subjects that I thought he was doing well with.
The school was basically in the woods - they had buildings with 4 classrooms that all opened to the outside and each set of two classrooms had bathrooms to share. They did not have a library, cafeteria, gym, etc. Because there were not halls or large common areas DS did not catch anything in 3 years at the school. He had always caught bugs from other kids in the early years of school and has since leaving. Since there was no cafeteria you had to send lunch with your child and also provide your own transportation. They did have before and after-school care on-site for a fee.
In summary, I will not send LO to this charter school. While they did have some good points I was not happy with the education my DS received in preparing him for the next level of school.
But charter schools have more freedom in instructional methods than a traditional public school. If you find one that is a good match for your child's learning style I think they could be an excellent option.
Charters are all over the place in terms of how they work and what they feel like.
Where I live, there aren't any district charters; our school is routinely at the top of the state ratings so there hasn't been a need for "better". I have a few friends who live in less well served areas who chose charters.
For one it was about escaping a mediocre public program and here the culture is snobbier than it was at the private day school my son attended in the primary grades. The moms all acted like they we paying big money tuition which they're not. They even changed the name of the school to drop the "Charter" and go with "Day School" in their bid to be the poor mom's pseudo-private.
For another couple of friends, the charters are more like STEM magnet schools. They're charters to allow more freedom of cirriculum, enrollment and hiring. They're excellent schools but both housed in very dilapidated buildings as some charters are.
The charter nearest me is a Montessori; it's relatively new and was started by parents whose kids attended the RC parish school that discontinued their Pre-K-4th Montessori program because the kids leaving it were acadmically behind their traditionally educated peers at the parochial and public schools. They'll bridge their first crop of 6th graders next year, not sure how they'll do.
There's an alternative charter in the next district for secondary. It's mostly "at risk" behavior plan kids. Academics take a back seat to behavior and life skills there.
Thanks for all of the input everyone!
Since writing this post I have done a lot of research and have gone to check out the charter school I was interested in.
Overall it seems like a great school. It has existed since 1998, started as a K- 8 and now has a High School as well. They recently put on a HUGE addition including a gymasium, lunch room/auditorium and will soon have a library. Academically state wide it seems like it is on par if not above the local public schools. The older part of the school could definitely use some updating but it is sufficient. I have entered my child into the lottery and we will see what happens.
It does provide transporation but I don't need to worry about that. They do have a before and after school program which is important since I work full time.