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Ontario County charter school proposal

Canandaigua, N.Y. -- Slated to open in the fall of 2015, Ontario County could see one of the state's first charter schools in a rural area.

Rochester has 13, but now one mother said it's time to give her kids, and others students, another option.

Former teacher turned entrepreneur, Donna Bennett of Canandaigua, has three children who attend public school but now she's looking for an alternative education. Bennett said, "When you see an A on a paper, you're so excited and you go to read it and none of the 18 grammatical errors are circled."

In order to challenge students and increase competition among educators, Bennett wants to open the Finger Lakes Classical Charter School.

"We can't point our finger at failing schools and say we need to do this that way, we're more going at it from a broader sense just saying let's have a very different educational choice in a public school."

Still following the Common Core Standards, Bennett plans to use a classical curriculum that includes traditional American literature and Latin.

Bennett said, "It's just for people who want something different, who want a choice; they see a value it going back to the basics of how our founding fathers were educated."

Tuition free, charter schools are a public school option that are funded by the state, not local property taxes. Bennett said, "So then that parent decides where that child is going to go and that state money follows."

Depending on the school district that state money ranges from $10,000 to $12,000- funding that public school districts would lose if any students left.

Grades K-6, Finger Lakes Classical Charter School plans to take on 200 in its first year, then add a grade each year until it reaches twelve grade.

The Phelps Community Center is at the stop of Bennett's list of possible locations. Centrally located, it's within 15 miles of nine school districts-meaning students at those schools could be bused to the charter school.

Bennett said, "So when it's spread across nine school districts the impact is a little less of a blow."

Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School Superintendent Mike Ford said the loss of students and state funding would create a gap in budgets. "What might be good for 200 kids, will hurt thousands of others," Ford said.

Without a hike in property taxes, Ford said districts would be forced to cut electives and extracurricular activities for their students.

To be submitted in March, if Bennett's proposal is approved in Albany, the school plans to be open for the 2015 school year- the final decision will be made in June.

An informational meeting about Finger Lakes Classical Charter School will be held at 6 p.m. on March 25 at the Phelps Community Center.

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Washington Times