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Carpe Diem charter school to delay opening until 2014

Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 5:59 am

A proposed charter school that would combine computer-assisted learning with classroom instruction plans to open in 2014 instead of its initial target date this fall.

Citing the lengthy process of negotiating a lease agreement, Rick Ogston, CEO and founder of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, said Friday that "the spirit of the agreement is intact" between Carpe Diem Summit Campus and the Ambassador Group at the Summit, which owns the property at 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd. where the school is to be located.

Ogston also said that the two sides have a memorandum of understanding drafted, but attorneys from both sides need to review the agreement extensively before it is finalized. Not knowing when that process would be finished meant the school could be cutting it close to meet some pre-existing conditions from the state and charter board that authorized Carpe Diem Summit Campus for a fall opening.

"We're approaching this as an opportunity to better fulfill our responsibility to the community and the board," Ogston said. "One of the benefits is that we'll be able to meet with some people in the community (prior to the planned opening of the school)."

In fact, that caveat was one of several that the Indiana Charter Schools Board set in the February meeting where Carpe Diem Summit Campus was authorized -- and the school always had a 2014 start date as a possibility, as a result.

In that meeting, Carpe Diem was given until June 1 to identify a resident from Fort Wayne who would join their board. It also had until July 15 to meet an overall enrollment target or reach a number that supports a sustainable budget (referred to as the "break even" number), as well as assess ISTEP+ scores and other assessment data from its Meridian Campus in Indianapolis.

That assessment would help determine a performance-level expectation in Year 1 that was to be in compliance with the management agreement and state's charter board accountability plan.

Instead of risking not meeting those requirements over the next two-plus months, as well as undertaking the hiring of teaching and administrative staff, Ogston said Carpe Diem will instead take time to address issues aired in a contentious public meeting in February that was decidedly chilly toward the possible arrival of the charter -- though he also emphasized that he felt that meeting featured more individuals that were aligned with public schools through employment or board status.

Ogston also said that local residents had attempted to contact Carpe Diem to learn more about the school and explore potential enrollment, which is one reason the school wanted to make sure that it would truly be ready to deliver as promised. He acknowledged that the potential closures of charters in the city this year meant that some parents and students would have likely strongly considered Carpe Diem, but in the end, it was better to wait.

"We wanted to try to meet that need. I deeply regret that we aren't going to be able to do that," Ogston said.

"We've got some plans. We don't need to rush things. We're going to be identifying people, scheduling meetings in the community so we can explain further what we are. It really comes out to be a win-win, in many ways."

The school was announced to have grades 6-12 and was originally projected to have 130 students: 30 in sixth grade and 25 each in grades 7-11, with no seniors in the first year of the school's operation.

Ogston said that with more time afforded by the opening in 2014, the school would be able to handle higher enrollment totals and would wait until next year to interview and hire staff.