Concord’s new charter school moving – slowly – toward opening day

  • Stephanie Alicea presents her proposal for a new Concord charter school to the State Board of Education in November 2017. Lola Duffort—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, May 20, 2018

Getting a charter school going is no easy task.

“The start to now has been an uphill battle,” said Stephanie Alicea, the Boscawen woman hoping to bring a service-learning based charter school to Concord in the fall. “It’s a ginormous waiting game.”

The Capital City Charter School received its charter from the State Board of Education in February after first presenting in November. The school, which will start with middle school students and eventually expand to high school grades, is centered around service learning, which requires students to incorporate individually designed community service projects into their education.

Since February, the school has been awarded a $223,000 federal start-up grant from the New Hampshire Department of Education. And Alicea hopes to soon cross off another major bullet point from her list of to-do’s: nailing down a location for the school.

She’s negotiated a lease for a commercial property on Loudon Road in Concord, but hasn’t signed and sent it in yet. Before she can do that, Alicea said she needs the state to release funds from its grant.

“It’s a wait and then send. You’re approved for this amount, but you can’t use it till this time,” she said.

There will be plenty left to do once the lease is finalized. The school needs to get going on fundraising, which will have to fill the gap between its start-up grant and state dollars (which are tied to headcount, and doled out in separate payments throughout the year.)

It also needs to hire staff, re-purpose the space it intends to rent, and buy – or solicit donations of – furniture and supplies. The school will also have to go before the Concord zoning board for approval to operate where it wants to, Alicea said.

The school’s target enrollment for its first year is 60 students in sixth- through eighth-grade. According to charter application materials submitted to the state, the school wants to start small: a $644,000 budget in year one, with just four teachers.

The school had its first information session this month. Alicea said she has about 15 students interested so far, about half of which have turned in formal applications.

“That’s what I want to get out to people: it’s open enrollment. Let’s go, let’s get your kids in for the fall,” she said.

Enrollment and fundraising are key to sustaining charter schools in New Hampshire. The per-pupil amount charters receive from the state is larger than the per-pupil amount given to traditional district schools, but charters cannot raise local tax dollars. Three charters have opened in Concord thus far – two of which have closed because of enrollment and money, according to the state.

By the school’s fifth year, Capital City’s founders hope to grow enrollment to 330 students, the teaching staff to 21, and the budget to $2.4 million.

Another information session is tentatively planned for 5:30 p.m. June 5 at Steeplegate Mall.

A website for the school is still under construction, but more information is available at facebook.com/cccsnh.


(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduf fort@cmonitor.com.)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the correct date of an upcoming information session.