The Los Alamos Public Schools and the proponents of the Polaris Charter School (Grades 6-8) regrettably, in my opinion, have failed the citizenry of Los Alamos concerning the Polaris application currently pending before the Public Education Commission.
Prior to the submission of the charter school application by Polaris, it would have been nice to have had a public forum in which the charter school proponents and the school district presented information about the positive and negative effects if any, that the charter school would have on various aspects of Los Alamos life, especially our schools. The application submission indicates numerous presentations before many organizations in the county. If there was a joint presentation, I am unaware of it and stand corrected.
I attended the Tuesday, July 16 meeting before the Public Education Commission held at UNM-LA (after belatedly reading about it) and was struck by the number of community entities possibly affected by the Polaris plans: LAPS facilities (Little Forest School was specifically mentioned by Superintendent Steinhaus) and LAPS funding; donation of real estate owned by LA County for a possible build site for the school; use of the facilities within the county to meet the educational goals or requirements to operate the school: the Family YMCA, PEEC, Maker Space and Art Lab, Mesa Public Library, the Teen Center, outdoor gardens and open space.
While use of entities within the community is positive, use by a projected capacity enrollment of 240 students after the fifth year of operation does have an effect on all who use these same facilities.
State funding for public education in NM goes to the school in which a student is enrolled. It was expressed that the school could be a private entity but that the preference was for a public one open to students from Los Alamos and from adjoining communities as has been the practice of Los Alamos Public Schools. We are a small community with many educational needs. The community at large has not had the opportunity to properly evaluate if establishing a charter school will best meet those needs.
The Polaris Charter School application can be found at:
https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/…/2019-new-applications/ and scroll down to Polaris Charter School Comments on the application per Commission hand-out must be filed by 5 p.m. of the third business day after the applicant’s PEC hearing, which in this case is Friday, July 19. Comments may be made via email to Charter.Schools@state.nm.us with the subject line Polaris Charter School.