Mapleton Charter School owners say they're not ready to proceed

The owners of a proposed charter school are withdrawing their application to move to Dover, citing an inability to meet the current deadlines.

Mapleton Charter School had originally planned to build a school in the new Town of Whitehall development near Middletown, but submitted a modification application to move to Dover on September 15.

Craig Schroeder, chairman of the school's board of directors, said in early October that the move came as a response to slow progress in Whitehall.

“This Town of Whitehall is going to be great someday, but it’s really still in the planning stages,” he said.

The board’s modification application would have changed the name of the school from Mapleton to Discovery, and moved the school's location to Capital School District. 

The board was scheduled to make a presentation Oct. 12 to the Charter School Accountability Committee. Instead, a representative for the school asked the committee for a continuance – effectively, a postponement on the process.

“We asked for an extension because we wanted more time to review our process as we’re going through the school planning period,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said the board needed more time to work on staffing, secure the desired facility and conduct parent outreach and student recruiting.

“All these things would have had to get done between December and next September, when the school would open, and we realized we didn’t want to rush it,” he said.

The State Board of Education, which makes the final decision on new charter schools, approved the request.

Schroeder said they will now be submitting a new application for the 2017-18 school year.

Alison May, spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Education, confirmed that this means the school will be starting over from square one.

A new charter application is more in depth than a modification application, and requires the board to assess factors including sources of income, floor plans, business plans and how the school will impact the surrounding communities and schools.

In the original application the school budgeted $10 million from a combination of federal, state and private sources. But those funds were only based on the school opening in Sept. 2016. By withdrawing, it’ll have to reapply for all previously pledged funding, said Schroeder.

“There are funds that have been committed but won’t be spent, once we withdraw the application,” Schroeder said. “At this point there has not been a lot of money spent on anything related to the school in Dover.”

He added that “a small amount” has been spent on administrative and education planning, but did not provide an exact figure.

Schroeder said there will be many similarities between the new application and previous ones. A major selling point for the school is an alternative style of education called “expeditionary learning,” that Schroeder characterizes as a “hands-on, interactive” style, which charter officials say will distinguish it from the other district schools. 

The board is still considering a planned site on Route 13 in Cheswold, near Crossroads Christian Church and across from Walmart, in a building owned by Kingdom Business Incorporated LLC.

Any aspiring charter school must hold a public hearing on its plan, giving the community a chance to express concerns or ask questions.  The State Board of Education then takes the comments into consideration before making a final decision.

The deadline to submit an application to start a school in the 2017-18 school year is Jan. 4.

If the application is successful, the proposed Discovery Charter School would join the Academy of Dover and Campus Community School as the Capital School District’s third charter school.