Red Bank Charter School starts three-year lottery experiment


Staff Writer

RED BANK — The Red Bank Charter School has started what officials call a three-year experiment in order to increase the school’s population of economically disadvantaged students.

“We appreciate the community of Red Bank, and we want to be responsive to the entire school-aged population and incorporate into our school more students and families that qualify as economically disadvantaged,” said Meredith Pennotti, the principal of the charter school, at the school’s April 28 admission lottery for the 2016-17.

Unlike schools that are part of the Red Bank Borough Public Schools, the Red Bank Charter School holds an annual admission lottery for each grade level for applicants. Students whose numbers are not called to fill an open seat are placed on a wait list in case a seat opens up later in the year.

Applicants who have a sibling already attending the charter school are automatically accepted if there is a seat available. If no seats are available, the applicant of a sibling would be first on the wait list. If there are multiple siblings vying for a seat, there is a separate lottery for them.

This year, however, the Department of Education approved giving students and families who qualify for public housing, free or reduced lunch or state food-assistance programs, increased chances of being selected for an open seat. Students have a 3:2 chance of being admitted into the school.

“It is a three-year experiment. At the end of that interval we will measure and see if we are moving towards the goal,” Pennotti said.

There were only 10 seats available for pre-K, with 31 applicants. Other grade levels did not have an opening, meaning a lottery that was held was for a position on the wait list. Kindergarten had 18, first grade had 17 applicants, second grade had 13, third grade had 16, fourth grade had 12, fifth grade and sixth grade had five, seventh grade had seven and eighth grade had one. In all, there were 125 applicants.

According to Pennotti, it is not often that there is an open seat available at the higher grade levels.

“I think there is a high-satisfaction rate among the parents and the students, that’s why the seats are filled,” she said.

On Feb. 29, Commissioner of Education David Hespe rejected a proposal from the charter school to double its enrollment from 200 to 400 students by the 2018-19 school year.

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