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Arts-focused charter school in Derry receives state approval

After more than a year of waiting for state approval, Granite State Arts Academy, a public charter school, will hold an open house at its likely location in Derry this weekend.

The school was approved by the State Board of Education earlier this month and plans to open with 160 students in August 2014. It was one of four charter schools approved this summer, most of which had been waiting for approval since a temporary charter school moratorium was enacted last summer due to lack of state funding. The other schools are Gate City Charter School for the Arts in Nashua, Founders Academy in Londonderry and Mountain Village Charter School in Plymouth.

The state budget passed this June includes $3.4
million in funding for new charter schools. Public charter schools receive $5,450 per student in state adequacy money. With these four new schools, New Hampshire will have 22 operating charter schools next year.

Granite State will have an open house Saturday and Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. at the school’s tentative location in Derry at 16 Route 111 Building #4. Founder Wendie Leweck originally wanted to open the school on the Seacoast, but was told by the state Department of Education earlier this summer to choose another location because the Seacoast already has two charter schools.

Alongside regular academics, students at Granite State Arts Academy can specialize in dance, music, theater or visual arts. The school is open to ninth- through 12th-graders and will take up to 40 students per grade. Leweck decided to start an arts-based charter school because she believes the arts give students lifelong skills such as creative thinking, perseverance and problem solving.

“The arts carry on much past high school,” she said.

Approval from the board is just the first step for Granite State and the other schools, which have lots of work to do between now and when they open next year. The next steps include applying for federal grants, seating a board of trustees, filing for nonprofit status, looking for a director and accepting applications.

More information is available at granitestatearts

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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