NEW BEDFORD — School officials and city and state leaders have agreed upon a plan that would grant Alma del Mar Charter School's request for additional seats in new schools.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Monday the innovative plan which has DESE Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley recommending to the full board of Elementary and Secondary Education that Alma del Mar expand to an additional site serving 450 students in kindergarten through grade 8.

Alma del Mar's initial request had called for nearly 1,200 new seats in two new schools.

Under the agreement, New Bedford Public Schools will establish a neighborhood zone from which students who live in the neighborhood will be drawn for the new Alma del Mar school instead of a citywide lottery. The DESE states that the neighborhood zone allows the City and school district to more effectively and efficiently plan for the charter school's expansion while reducing the financial impact on the city.

The new school will be a facility that the City of New Bedford is not currently using to house the Alma del Mar expansion. That facility has been identified as the Kempton School at 135 Shawmut Avenue, which closed in 2016.

The new campus would open this coming August and house 200 students in kindergarten, first, second, and sixth grades.

To support the additional seats and subsequent loss of funding, New Bedford Public Schools will apply for targeted assistance grants from the DESE. Alma del Mar will pursue charter expansion grants to assist with the implementation of the plan.

The DESE says Alma del Mar has a "strong record of effectively serving New Bedford students, in particular, English language learners and students from low-income backgrounds."

“This agreement contemplates a fairer way to do charter schools – fairer to cities, fairer to taxpayers, and fairer to students in district schools," said Mayor Jon Mitchell of the agreement. "It will level the playing field by requiring the new charter school to accept all students in its neighborhood.”

“We’re excited to create another high performing K-8 school that provides more New Bedford kids with access to an Alma education while working in partnership with the city and school district,” said Alma del Mar Executive Director Will Gardner. “We look forward to becoming even more deeply embedded in the community through this neighborhood school model.”

“I view this outcome as an optimal compromise for all of us to grow as we prioritize the education of New Bedford schoolchildren,” New Bedford Superintendent Thomas Anderson said. “I am optimistic that this collaborative effort will help enhance the education of all students.”

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote on the recommendation at their January 22 meeting.

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