Sometimes when I write about the American Indian Public Charter School I feel like I’ve entered an alternative reality. This is one of those times.
For that reason, I can’t tell you definitively whether an unauthorized elementary charter school will open on American Indian’s downtown campus on Halloween, as rumored — though it’s looking unlikely. I’ll just share the information I’ve collected so far.
Evidence that suggests a school affiliated with American Indian is (or at least was) slated to open two months into the school year:
- I called the receptionist at the school last week, told her I was a news reporter, and asked if American Indian was opening a new elementary school in October, as I had heard. She said, “Yes it is.”
- An OUSD mother who attended a recent informational meeting at American Indian said parents were told that a new elementary school would indeed open on Oct. 31. She’s since heard rumors it will no longer happen. But if it does, she said, she will probably send her daughter there.
- OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said district staff spoke with Laura Armstrong, the director of another charter school, East Oakland Leadership Academy. He said Armstrong told them that it planned to “expand” onto American Indian’s downtown Oakland campus this fall. (I’ve left two messages for Armstrong since Friday, which haven’t been returned.)
- Flint said the district received a number of reports about families who said they planned to pull their children out of their schools and enroll them at a new American Indian school.
- Two teachers from Bella Vista Elementary School’s Chinese bilingual program have told me families have told them the same thing.
- Ben Chavis, who has emerged from retirement to once again lead the charter school group, laughed at the rumor that AIM would open a school in late October. He said East Oakland Leadership Academy had spoken with his organization about leasing space from them — and that American Indian is looking to open a k-8 school next year — but that he’s opening no schools next week. He said the informational meeting with parents was about next year’s expansion.
- Chavis then put me on the phone with the receptionist I spoke with last week, who proceeded to deny that she had told me anything.
Amid all the confusion, the school district sent out a letter to families, advising them to not pull their children out of school to enroll them in an unauthorized charter school. Here’s an excerpt:
- No existing charter school in Oakland – not American Indian Model Schools or any other organization — has received approval to expand its existing program to the current American Indian Public Charter School campus at 171 12th Street.
- If any organization opens a new elementary school in Oakland during the 2011-2012 school year without authorization, claiming that it is a public charter school, this is verifiably false and families should contact the Office of Charter Schools at the contact information below.
It goes on to say, in all-caps: “OUSD ADVISES PARENTS TO THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE REMOVING THEIR CHILDREN FROM THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL AND ENROLLING THEM IN AN UNAUTHORIZED PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL OR ANY PRIVATE SCHOOL THAT CLAIMS IT WILL BECOME A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL.”
“We think what they’re doing is illegal, a violation of ed code,” Flint said. “There are so many issues, it’s almost hard to list them all.”
That is, if they’re doing it at all.