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Local group tries again for charter school

Backers of the proposed Sunnyside Charter Academy are hoping the second time is the charm, as the group earlier this month filed a notice of intent to apply with the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Local charter school proponents, who call themselves Charter Schools of Sunnyside, had their first application turned down in January of this year, chiefly due to financial concerns expressed by the state commission.

The group has taken those issues to heart, which will be reflected in the second application due July 15.

That’s according to Brittany Weaver of Charter Schools of Sunnyside.

Weaver notes the Sunnyside group is working with a firm, EdTech, to fine-tune their application. “They’ve worked with hundreds of charter schools throughout the country,” Weaver said of the California-based company. “They know charter school management and helped several of the eight that were approved in this state last year.”

One big change in the forthcoming application is a decision to scuttle plans for buying land and building a new charter school building.

“That was one thing that really set us back,” Weaver said of the 2013 proposal to buy land and a building.

By contrast, the second go-round in the application process will see Charter Schools of Sunnyside hope to lease or renovate an existing building. Weaver says the building would likely be in the Sunnyside city limits.

The state commission also recommended the local charter school group have someone on board with strong fundraising experience.

To that end, Weaver says Erin Martin, a vice chair for Charter Schools of Sunnyside, will apply her fundraising expertise on behalf of a charter school here.

Martin, noted Weaver, used marketing strategies to help double the amount raised at the annual Buddy Walk fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia, from $40,000 in 2012 to $80,000 in 2013.

Weaver also said Washington state is making start-up grants available for new charter schools. She’s confident Sunnyside can successfully pursue state, federal and/or other grant funds available for charter schools.

“I think we have as good a chance as anyone,” she said.

A total of 12 groups from around the state filed a notice of intent to apply for charter schools. Sunnyside is one of six applying for a second time.

The only other application from Yakima County is the Cesar E. Chavez Charter School of Yakima proposed by the Academy of Continuing Education.

Following the July 15 deadline to submit formal applications, the state commission will hold in-person interviews with the 12 applicants in August. A public forum will be held in September.

The commission will then hold a meeting at YVCC on Oct. 9 and decide which applications to approve.

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