Charter schools have become common place in urban centers, but now in the middle of Loudoun County's horse country, a charter school may be the only thing that saves one of the smallest elementary schools in Virginia.
Tiny Middleburg Elementary has just 59 students. The first grade has just seven children. The largest class numbers 12.
This year after the Loudoun County School Board was forced to cut an added $16 million, the superintendent and board members warned that they might not be able to keep Middleburg Elementary open much longer.
But parents think they have a solution. They are mobilizing to try to get approval for what would become northern Virginia's first charter school.
"Without this school Middleburg does not have a community elementary school, and I think that’s critical for the vitality for this community," said PTO President Janelle Stewart.
Dave Quanbeck is also working to save the school. He attended Middleburg Elementary as a boy and has had two of his children go there. He said it's a challenge right now to boost enrollment.
"We're under a blanket of uncertainty from whether we'll be open year to year, and that causes concern for parents coming with young children looking for a school. We lose a number who don't enroll every year because of the uncertainty."
As a charter school, MIddleburg Elementary can both stay open and attract new students, Quanbeck said.
The parents hope to offer what they term an expeditionary type of curriculum that will be project-based. They may also offer full-day kindergarten, which is not available at most Loudoun County elementary schools.
"The more we've looked at other charter school models around the country, the more we've gotten excited and now we're pretty passionate about it," said Stewart.
The parents plan to submit their charter school application by July 1. Right now just five charter schools have won approval across Virginia but so far none has opened in northern Virginia. The Loudoun County School Board has previously rejected two other charter school applications.
"It's going to take a lot of work and have to do a good job getting the application together," said Quanbeck.
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