TWIN FALLS — With a waiting list of 361 children and space in its school building maxed out, Xavier Charter School has essentially stopped advertising to seek more students.
The Twin Falls public charter school — which opened in 2007 — is known for its classical model of education, rigorous academics, high test scores and focus on the arts.
With such a large demand, “I think it says a lot about our school,” administrator Gary Moon said.
Across Idaho, the demand for free public charter schools — open to all students and offer innovative programs — is robust. Despite a growing number of charter schools statewide, nearly 11,000 students are on waiting lists, Idaho Education News reported Sept. 24. It conducted a survey and all but eight charter schools responded.
South-central Idaho is home to four charter schools: Xavier, Heritage Academy in Jerome, North Valley Academy in Gooding and Syringa Mountain School in Hailey. Syringa doesn’t have a waiting list and information wasn’t available by news deadline for Heritage or North Valley.
Parents of prospective students fill out an application for the school they’re interested in. Then, openings are filled at random each April using a lottery system — a process set by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission.
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As of September, Xavier had a waiting list of 361 students — slightly more than last school year, Moon said. But it’s a drop of about 60 children compared with a couple of years earlier.
With the Twin Falls School District starting in mid-August and Xavier not until after Labor Day in early September, some families may not want their children to transition after the school year starts if a spot opens up at Xavier, Moon said. “We’ve worked through the waiting list a little more.”
The strongest demand is for kindergarten, with 87 on the waiting list.
This school year, Xavier has 701 students in kindergarten through 12th grades. The school’s charter specifies a maximum of 810 students, but there’s not enough space in the school building to accommodate more students.
Some teachers don’t have their own classroom, so they use empty classrooms during their colleagues’ preparation periods. “We want to move away from that,” Moon said.
Xavier is seeking bids for one or two modular buildings — each with two classrooms — to add to its North College Road West campus. That would allow the school to take in more students.
In Hailey, Syringa Mountain School — which opened in 2014 — serves students in kindergarten through seventh grades. The public Waldorf school has a nature-oriented approach that de-emphasizes technology, with the goal of developing students’ imaginations.
Syringa school administrator Nigel Whittington said he doesn’t anticipate having a waiting list for a couple of years.
“The school is young and it’s still building.”