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Tue, Feb. 25

Editorial: Innovative schooling a victim of the economy

Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Center (NELA) started at the wrong place and the wrong time.

The combined forces of a declining economy and insufficient enrollment led to the decision for Northpoint to go its own way as a charter school.

The concept of more hands-on learning in conjunction with computers and modern technology is a promising one, but when the school district had to look at deep budget cuts because of the declining economy, NELA became a lightning rod.

Because the cost per student at NELA was greater, a loud chorus erupted to do away with the school in the budget cuts. Its unusual curriculum also raised some eyebrows, such as spending district money on a field trip to Los Angeles to study hip-hop culture.

Supt. Kevin Kapp pointed out at this past Wednesday's board meeting that the ideal NELA enrollment of 50 students per grade did not make sense financially for the school district.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Arizona does not support innovation in education. To support that would require more money per child."

As a result, a group of NELA parents will apply to the State Charter Board on Aug. 3 to create Northpoint Academy. It hopes to rent its current quarters from the Prescott Unified School District and to make a contract with the district for food services.

As it becomes a charter school, Northpoint may continue to be a trail-blazing experiment. Now it will find out how it fares in a competitive free market.

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