The school board of the Fort Wayne Urban League’s planned charter school expressed positive feelings about the number of students who have pledged to enroll.
To date, 175 students have applied to the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, an urban prep school slated to open this August in south-central Fort Wayne. The Urban League hopes to enroll up to 225 students in grades K-8 at the former Zion school building at 2313 S. Hanna St.
Of the 175 students, 48 live within the boundaries of East Allen County Schools and 127 live within the Fort Wayne Community Schools district, according to Fort Wayne Urban League programming director Jamie Garwood.
Although several board members expressed happiness with the total number of students who had applied, Garwood acknowledged that the actual figure might be lower, since some students may have enrolled when they thought the school would be in a different location.
Originally, The Urban League had intended to start the charter school in the former Village Woods Middle School building within EACS boundaries. But after running into problems with securing financing, the group decided to move to a building across the street from its headquarters, which is located in the FWCS district.
Garwood said that some students within the EACS boundaries might have applied when they thought it would be closer to their neighborhood. But since the charter school isn’t planning on providing transportation to its new location, some of those students could change their minds.
“Will they leave us?” she asked. “We’re going to go to these families one by one and see how they feel. Some have said they are not concerned and are willing to stick with us.”
Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray said he was planning on visiting local churches during the next few Sundays to spread the word about the school. He said he hoped to make the appearances with the school’s new principal, Nicole N. Chisley, who was hired earlier this month.
Ray said he was confident the school would reach its enrollment goal. But if it didn’t, he said the school could adjust what grades are offered or hire fewer teachers.
“We’re going to look mid-July, and whatever that number is we’ll make the adjustment,” he said.
In the meantime, the school is moving forward with its plans to open Aug. 20. The board still needs to finalize a lease with Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. And school board President Will Clark said the board is trying to find a local bank to help fund about $50,000 worth of renovations in the new facility.
On Monday, Chisley interviewed 18 teachers – sometimes as many as three at a time, Ray said.
In December, the Indiana Charter School Board approved the creation of the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, a social justice-themed school overseen by the Fort Wayne Urban League and run by American Quality Schools Corp.
Officials say the school will have a longer school year and a strict but fair discipline policy. Students would be required to wear uniforms, and parents would be asked to sign a contract at the start of the year guaranteeing their involvement with the school.