This year’s crop of charter schools in Toledo has strong religious connections.
A state database listing new charters for the school year showed three new schools, though a fourth that wasn’t listed is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education. Of those four, two fill unused space in churches, another had plans to be based at a church, while the fourth is located in a former Catholic school.
With the new schools, there are about three dozen charter schools open in Toledo. Despite their locations, the schools are public, though readily available information on some wasn’t plentiful.
Take, for instance, Rise and Shine Academy, a K-5 school at 3248 Warsaw St., the former home of Northpointe Academy, another charter school. On a sparse Web site for Rise and Shine another address on Warsaw is listed, and an enrollment form lists the address for The Worship Center, a church on Collingwood Boulevard.
School board president Michelle Savage said Rise and Shine originally planned to be located at the Worship Center, but those plans changed.
She deferred further comment to a school principal who did not contact The Blade on Monday.
Discovery Academy fills the halls of the former Mary Immaculate School, a Catholic school on Secor Road and on the same campus as Notre Dame Academy. The school is sponsored by ODE and is managed by Leona Group, a for-profit company that runs several other Toledo charter schools.
Noah Campbell, school leader at Discovery, said the school has enrolled nearly 100 students so far. While Mary Immaculate focused on special-needs students, Discovery has more of a traditional setup. Mr. Campbell said the school is “technologically driven,” with interactive whiteboards in each classroom and online curriculum for science and social studies.
The Web-based curriculum was less expensive than physical books, he said, and teachers can print out material for students to take home. Mr. Campbell said the campus, which he called beautiful, helps create a family-friendly atmosphere.
“The parents I’ve talked to didn’t have great school experiences themselves,” he said. “So they feel a little bit nervous about coming into a school.”
While Discovery isn’t affiliated with the Sisters of Notre Dame, other than being tenants, Mr. Campbell said several sisters have expressed interest in volunteering at the school, and Notre Dame students may tutor there.
Mr. Campbell has worked for Leona for several years, most of those at Northpointe Academy. A Leona-run school called Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy was closed in June, 2010, because of low test scores. A new Leona school named Northpointe opened at the Warsaw Street location months later, with much of the same staff. Leona said at the time Northpointe was the result of a reshuffling of a relationship between two other charter schools.
Another new charter school also has a Mary Immaculate connection. A former board chairman of the school started Hope Learning Academy at Hampton Park Christian Church of Toledo, 4234 Monroe St. The school has a similar mission to Mary Immaculate. It will try to keep class sizes small and caters to students with disabilities. A message left for the academy’s principal Monday was not returned.
Secor Gardens Academy has no Web site, and the parking lot at its home at the the Armory Church, 3319 Nebraska Ave., was nearly vacant. Classes were under way in green-painted hallways, though school superintendent Samuel Hancock was not there Monday afternoon, and he did not return a request for comment.
Secor Gardens, Hope Learning, and Rise and Shine are all sponsored by the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center. No one was available Monday to explain why the ESC sponsored a trio of schools outside its service center.