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Published: Monday, 7/31/2006

Officials rush to open school by Sept. 30

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The operators of Victory Academy charter school in Southwest Toledo are rushing to open a new maritime-theme school in Toledo that was originally planned to start last year but wasn't chosen in a state lottery for new charter schools.

Now, Renee Marazon, principal of Victory Academy, said she just recently received permission from the Ohio Department of Education to open the school but according to state law, she must do so by Sept. 30 or forget it.

"It was open or hold our peace," Ms. Marazon said regarding the deadline.

"We do hope to have a location by Monday or Tuesday and we are looking at two locations."

The school, which will focus on the Great Lakes if opened, hasn't secured a building and no students have been enrolled.

Ms. Marazon said it's been a struggle to get the school started.

"You can't get your school open on last-minute notice," she said.

"That isn't good business. It isn't good education."

Bart Anderson, superintendent of the Franklin County Educational Service Center, the sponsor of the charter school, said the school so far has received $200,000 in start-up money.

"The grant program for start-up is $50,000 from the state and $150,000 of federal money for each year of three years, so start-up community schools are eligible to apply for those grants," Mr. Anderson said.

Charter schools, which are public schools that often are privately operated, also receive state funding determined by the number of students enrolled.

The Franklin County Educational Service Center, like the Lucas County Educational Service Center and other agencies, can sponsor charter schools. It agreed to authorize this school because of its focus, Mr. Anderson said.

"We felt the charter school was very unique, could fill a need, and clearly filled a niche," he said. The school's plan is to open with just 25 students in grades seven through nine and eventually expand to grades five through 12.

Victory Academy, 3319 Nebraska Ave., opened during the 2004-2005 school year.

Last July, two northwest Ohio charter schools - one in Toledo and another in Sandusky - were to be allowed to open for the 2005-2006 academic year, but Ms. Marazon's planned maritime-theme school had no luck during a state lottery.

Sixty-two proposed Ohio charter schools, including the two in Toledo and one in Sandusky, competed in the lottery in Columbus for the right to open their doors.

Only 30 spots for new charter schools were allotted in the state budget signed by Gov. Bob Taft on June 30, 2005, and the law required a lottery to select which schools would open.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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