Students from Dennis-Yarmouth and Barnstable submitted the most applications for the sixth grade enrollment lottery held yesterday at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School, according to data provided by CCLCS Executive Director Paul Niles. With 46 and 43 applications, respectively, the two mid-Cape districts’ kids out-paced those from Nauset, which came in third with only 40 applications.
CCLCS received 173 applications for the 2013-2014 lottery - the second highest number in its history. Ten years ago the school received only 103 applications. Today the 228 student school could fill each sixth grade seat more than twice with the number of applications received.
Lighthouse Charter has not yet released the results of yesterday’s lottery.
New Campus, New Demographic
Last fall Lighthouse Charter moved one exit to the west, from Exit 12 in Orleans to Exit 11 in Harwich. Apparently that ten-minute shift made a difference to the 14 families in Sandwich who applied this year. Last year only 8 students from Sandwich applied and only 4 in 2011-2012. It’s a drive of approximately 25 minutes each way for Sandwich families that wish to attend the Harwich charter middle school.
Over the past ten years, the charter middle school’s demographic has shifted from a school consisting largely of residents of the Nauset region to one attracting a large portion of its students from the mid-Cape area.
In 2003-2004, only 7 Barnstable children applied and only 16 from Dennis-Yarmouth, while the school received 64 from towns in the Nauset region.
Academic, Financial Challenges
The demographic shift towards the mid-Cape area has created new challenges for Lighthouse Charter’s faculty and administration.
For several years the school has shown less-than-stellar results on the MCAS mathematics test. As reported by Cape Cod Today on November 17, 2012, the school re-oriented its curriculum around a “Math in Action” program to help students in need build their number sense and basic mathematics skills.
Students from the Lower Cape districts tend to bring far more money to charter schools than do the children from the mid-Cape districts. Districts like Nauset and Provincetown spend far more per student than does Barnstable, for example. That ‘per capita’ money moves with a student when she enrolls in a charter school.
CCLCS’ operating revenue drops with each student from Barnstable who joins the school versus a child from the Nauset region.
$10.8 million was paid to the Cape’s two charter schools by local districts in Fiscal 2012. A total of $85 million changed hands locally, between school choice and charter choice.
Reflections on Home School Districts
The sharp increase in applications from Barnstable and Sandwich should be a wake-up call to both of those districts.
Cape families make a significant sacrifice to send a child to a charter school or a school choice destination. For a Sandwich or Osterville family to make a fifty-minute round trip twice a day to attend a charter school in Harwich says as much about their satisfaction with their local school district as it does about the reputation of the charter school.
Dennis-Yarmouth seems, at long last, to be fighting the tide of students leaving their district, both in holding their own, enrollment-wise, this year and in a slight drop in students applying to Lighthouse Charter.
A Chilling Prospect
During a time when Cape-wide public school enrollment has declined by over 18%, Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter has seen its pool of applicants increase by nearly 70%. Looking at the last three years’ application total of 520 and assuming 75 students were accepted, CCLCS is sitting on a virtual waiting list of nearly 300 students.
Perhaps the time will soon arrive when Lighthouse Charter considers a second campus along the lines of what was done by Sturgis Charter Public School last year. It would be a great opportunity for CCLCS and its students, but a chilling prospect indeed for local school districts.
See a Capewide ten-year application comparison here.