For the last six months, three members of the Loudoun County School Board have been extensively sifting through the Middleburg Charter School's application.
A School Board subcommittee made up of board members Bill Fox (Leesburg), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) and Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) has been tasked with vetting the application, going through it page-by-page every two weeks.
The 100-year-old Middleburg Elementary School has suffered from dwindling enrollment over the past few years; this year the school has just 44 students enrolled, despite a capacity of 137 children.
In recent years, small schools like Middleburg Elementary have been considered for closure during the budget process; the Middleburg Charter Committee developed the application as an alternative.
With a public hearing and introduction to the rest of the School Board held Feb. 11, the Town of Middleburg might know whether or not the application has been approved by Feb. 25.
If it is approved the Middleburg Charter School, which will be in the current elementary school's building, will become the fourth charter school in the state of Virginia.
According to Middleburg Charter Committee Co-Chair Dave Quanbeck, it's been determined that in order for the school to be economically feasible next year, it would require at least 35 students. However, that number has not been finalized by the School Board.
“We feel we are going to be well north of that number, honestly,” Quanbeck said. “We have approximately 48 students in the school now, plus we have received some interest from prospective students in Purcellville and eastern Loudoun, as well. We have an intent to enroll form, and as I recall about 40 students have filled out that form already – that was as of Feb. 11.”
In an effort to better answer the School Board's questions about the school program, they've scheduled a work session Feb. 24, before making their ruling, which could come as early as Feb. 25.
One of the questions that has come up is transportation, and the issue of how students would get to and from the school. Quanbeck noted they have developed preliminary plans with the subcommittee for a feasible transportation plan.
“We have talked about that with the subcommittee at a few meetings, and the consensus we have come to is transportation in the current attendance zone will be provided by Loudoun County Public Schools buses, which will come out of the charter school budget,” Quanbeck said. “For anybody outside of the attendance zone area, the default will be they provide their own transportation, but it is not out of the possibility we may be able to arrange a bus run from a pickup point in another town.”
If the school's application succeeds, it would be the first and only charter school in Loudoun County. An application last year for a math and science specific charter school, called the Loudoun Math and IT Academy, was denied by the School Board in February 2013.
The Middleburg Charter School committee hopes to have the school's doors open Aug. 4.