The Middleburg Community Charter School (MCCS) community can breathe a sigh of relief. After working through a months-long application process, the school’s charter was extended by the Loudoun County School Board for three to five more years on March 28.
The board unanimously voted to renew the school’s contract. Along with renewing the charter, the vote increased enrollment from 137 to 150 students and allows the principal to take a headmaster-like role to teach a half-time class load.
“They’re being given a great education at a place they desire to attend, which is always an optimal learning environment,” Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said.
The school’s contract has been extended for five years, but is conditional on MCCS meeting state SOL score standards for the next two years since the school did not meet these standards its first year. If the school fails to do so, the charter would revert to a three-year contract, said Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), who serves as the chairman of the Charter Schools Committee.
MCCS was founded by the Middleburg community when Middleburg Elementary was set to close due to underfunding and declining enrollment, MCCS Board of Directors Chair Bob Liscouski said. The solution was MCCS, the first charter school in northern Virginia.
The school was founded on a project-based, hands-on approach to help students engage the community in a way that MCCS believes is lets it stand out from a traditional LCPS school, Liscouski said.
Charter schools are public schools that are not subject to districting and have greater flexibility than traditional public schools in determining their curriculum. The school opened in 2014 with 104 students and expects to serve around 144 students this coming fall.
Fourth-grader Reese Teasdale was among a group of the school’s supporters to address the board during its last two meetings. Teasdale transferred to MCCS from Arcola Elementary School, and while she originally did not want to switch schools, she said MCCS immediately won her over.
“These are things that I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I didn’t get to MCCS,” Teasdale said.
Joy Maloney (Broad Run) thanked constituents who spoke to the board and gave her feedback. Maloney was one of the board members with reservations about renewing the school’s charter.
“It sounds like they’re on the right track at this point. I still don’t feel like I have my question answered as to what is being done that couldn’t be done at a regular public school, but at this point, it sounds like it’s worth it to give them another two years and see how everything is working,” Maloney said.
Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) responded to Maloney’s comments saying that it’s not that other public schools can’t do what MCCS is doing, it’s that it’s not being done in other schools.
“Each school is doing something different because it serves the need of that community and those students and it works well with the teachers and the staff. That’s the magic of it, that we can have a school that takes a unique approach,” Turgeon said. MCCS is in Turgeon’s district.
Tom Marshall (Leesburg) was another board member with reservations about the school, but said he too would support renewing the charter. He said he’s usually ideologically opposed to charter schools because he feels they siphon money from public schools.
“But on the other hand, I do believe this is a homegrown situation. It came from within our school system and I can appreciate the efforts you all made to make this a school that everybody seems to be very happy with,” Marshall said.
Morse said he was pleased with how the school came about and how it worked through its first year difficulties. He also clarified Marshall’s comment saying that the school does not siphon money off public schools because MCCS students are LCPS students.
“I look forward to the next three to five years of MCCS and know that they can continue to do significant things with our children,” Morse said.