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Charter Proposal On Hold

Morrison project hung up as officials crunch numbers

DALLAS -- The Morrison alternative school could still become a charter school.

For the time being, however, the Dallas School District and Morrison officials are stuck on the numbers.

Charter schools are independently-run public schools with a contract, or charter, with the sponsoring district. Dallas has one charter already with Pedee School.

Districts that sponsor charter schools keep some of the money State funding gives for each student. The vast majority of it, however, goes to the charter school itself.

Losing a large number of students can hurt, especially in lean economic times.

Dallas Superintendent Dave Novotney wrote Morrison staffer and charter school supporter Don Wildfang April 7 with the district's "last, best offer."

Novotney called for an enrollment cap of 72 district students at Morrison next year. That number could increase by four students each of the following two years.

Wildfang wants the charter school to teach five classes of 16 Dallas students, for a total of 80, plus some out-of-district students. The charter school would also keep the teen parent program.

That leaves a gap of only eight students. "From my point of view, that's not insurmountable," Wildfang said.

Novotney's memo to Wildfang took a different tone: "Obviously, there is significant disagreement between both parties related to the proposed student enrollment numbers for Morrison for the 2003-2004 school year."

Wildfang had yet to respond to Novotney's offer by press time.

The charter school would need the equivalent of 100 full-time students to break even. Students in the teen parent program are counted twice.

The program currently has 14 students.

Wildfang would prefer to teach Dallas students and he believes Morrison fills a niche. The school currently has a waiting list of 50 Dallas students wanting to attend.

Students who have dropped out of Dallas High School could also go to Morrison, he said.

"We're just hopeful. Our staff wants to continue to serve the students of the community.

"We hope to have a good working relationship with the board."

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