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Carpe Diem charter conditionally approved; school could open in August

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 3:41 am

Fort Wayne could have a new charter school as early as this fall – if all conditions set by the state's charter board are met.

The Indiana Charter Schools Board during a Wednesday afternoon meeting approved the charter expansion of Carpe Diem Indiana by a vote of 5-1, with one member of the board not present at the meeting and unable to vote.

The school would be called the Carpe Diem Summit Campus and be for grades 6-12. It will be at 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd. on the former Taylor University campus.

Should each of four conditions set by the board be met, the Summit Campus would open in August with a projected 130 students: 30 in sixth grade and 25 each in grades 7-11. There would be no seniors in the first year of the school's operation.

There's the rub, however: Meeting enrollment projections is one of the conditions for the opening of the school.

The board was cognizant that there was opposition to the charter, as witnessed during a public hearing Tuesday at the site of the proposed campus, with state charter board Executive Director Claire Fiddian-Green stating, "There is very strong, and organized, opposition from the school district."

While that opposition from Fort Wayne Community Schools board members and employees did not lead to the denial of the charter replication, Carpe Diem will still have to show that residents will support the educational model and enroll their children, with Robert Sommers, the CEO/managing partner of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, acknowledging, "If we don't engage enough parents, we can't open."

Here are the four conditions set by the state charter board:

*Carpe Diem Indiana must meet all the requirements of the state's charter board's pre-opening checklist, which will be verified during a site visit by Fiddian-Green. The Carpe Diem Indiana board must complete development of all its board policies by April 1.

*Carpe Diem must identify by June 1 a resident from Fort Wayne who would join the board. That person must have successfully completed an expanded background check before joining.

*Student enrollment forms for the Fort Wayne campus must either meet their overall enrollment target or reach a number that supports a sustainable budget (referred to as the "break even" number) by July 15.

*Carpe Diem Indiana will assess ISTEP+ and other assessment data from Carpe Diem Meridian Campus in Indianapolis and determine whether actual outcomes demonstrate quality performance in Year 1, all in compliance with the management agreement and state's charter board accountability plan. The assessment of Carpe Diem Meridian must be reported to Fiddian-Green no later than July 15.

The state charter board's staff will then take that information and determine, in conjunction with the pre-opening site visit, if the school opening should proceed or be delayed until August 2014.

The board also questioned during the Tuesday meeting what efforts Carpe Diem will make to engage the community and develop support by possibly seeking to work with the existing school systems.

Sommers wasn't opposed to that idea, saying that Carpe Diem would prefer to be a complement, not necessarily a competitor, saying, "We think poverty and ignorance is the real competition; once we get that figured out, maybe then we could turn on each other."

Sommers said after the meeting that the Summit Campus could have a principal in three to four weeks, with other staff to follow.

Carpe Diem features a "blended learning model," which combines computer-assisted learning with classroom instruction. The school model is meant to hold a maximum 300 students.