BOSTON — The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has given approval to two motions for the expansion of the Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford.

The Board voted 9-1, with one member abstaining, to approve the compromise plan to add 450 new seats within a new school under the Alma del Mar umbrella. The plan was announced last week and adds significantly fewer seats than the charter school's initial proposal of nearly 1,200 seats within two new schools.

The Board also approved a second motion in a 9-2 vote that would allow Alma del Mar to increase it's student population by 594 seats if the conditions of the first motion are not met.

With the approval of the plan, Alma del Mar will begin work on making necessary repairs to the Kempton School on Shawmut Avenue, which has been closed since 2016. The compromise between the charter school and the City called for Alma del Mar to utilize the Kempton School and assume responsibility and costs for repairs and maintenance of the building.

Instead of a city-wide lottery, students living near the school in a neighborhood zone that is to be determined by the City will be eligible to attend the new charter school. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 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 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.

“By agreeing to the establishment of a 450 student, neighborhood-based charter school, the city will have avoided the significantly higher costs of the alternate proposal of nearly 600 students in a choice-based school," said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell in a statement. "It is a much fairer way to do charter schools – fairer to the city, fairer to taxpayers and fairer to students in our district schools.  Until state law is fixed to account for the enormous expense of charter school expansion on local taxpayers, the New Bedford approach will lead to a better result for cities facing new charter applications.”

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