Fed. Way Considers Charter Schools

FEDERAL WAY - The Federal Way School District is considering setting up its own charter schools.

The proposal, discussed at yesterday's School Board meeting, might not allow such schools the level of independence from state regulations that charter schools have in other states. But it would allow teachers and parents more choice over curriculum.

Charter schools, already approved in 29 states, are publicly funded but operate with autonomy from local school boards. They grow out of a charter, or contract, with school authorities.

Washington voters defeated a ballot measure to create charter schools in 1996. State lawmakers have been considering legislation for the schools since then.

Federal Way schools Superintendent Tom Vander Ark said the district already has been contacted by proponents of ideas for new types of schools. Among them are a proposed junior-high school focusing on college preparation, and a "core" knowledge school centered on classically rooted education.

The proposal for community and staff-initiated schools, as they would be known in Federal Way, would begin with the district soliciting new ideas for schools from parents, teachers and members of the community.

Vander Ark, a supporter of charter schools, said the district would be limited in how many state or district rules could be circumvented, but he would be willing to ask for waivers from a limited number of regulations.

The state waiver system already has allowed Federal Way to establish its Internet Academy, which allows students to study via computer, and its Marketing Academy, which operates out of a school office in the SeaTac Mall and focuses students on careers in business.