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Homewood group plans charter school

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 12:44 a.m.

A Homewood nonprofit wants to open an arts, science and technology charter school that would lease classroom space in the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum and use community support systems to help prepare students for college, an official said.

If approved, the school would join at least 30 other charter schools that are pulling students from Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Homewood Children's Village on Friday plans to submit an application to Pittsburgh Public Schools to open Homewood Children's Village Collegiate Charter School. Its curriculum would focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or so-called STEAM education, said Derrick Lopez, president and chief executive officer.

“It's the logical next step in our mission to better the lives of Homewood children through their families, peer networks, communities and schools,” said Lopez, a former assistant superintendent in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The Homewood Children's Village works with parents, government, schools and others to improve the lives of children in Homewood, which is economically depressed.

Brick-and-mortar charter schools are authorized by the school districts in which they would operate.

Charter schools don't offer anything better than Pittsburgh Public Schools, but they continue to siphon students and tax dollars away, Pittsburgh school board member Jean Fink said.

The district projects that it will spend $54.9 million, about 10.3 percent of its budget, on charter school tuition in 2014.

“Charter schools were supposed to be founded to show (traditional) public schools how to do things differently. They haven't shown me a thing,” Fink said.

In 2004, 1,262 Pittsburgh students attended charter schools, and about 32,661 students attended district schools, according to school data. In 2013, 3,652 Pittsburgh students attended charter schools, and 24,525 were in district schools. Children's Village would be the founding organization for the charter school, but the school would have its own administration and teachers, Lopez said.

The charter school would align with and expand upon existing Children's Village intervention programs at Lincoln PreK-5, Faison K-5 and Westinghouse Academy 6-12, where University of Pittsburgh social work students and AmeriCorps volunteers work with school faculty to meet needs that could impede learning, Lopez said.

Children's Village plans to open the charter school in fall 2014 and start with 72 students each in sixth and seventh grades, Lopez said.

Tory N. Parrish and Megan Harris are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Harris at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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