EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–As the pandemic continues presenting changes and challenges for schools across the country, a charter school district in El Paso sees a jump in enrollment.
Dr. Joe E. Gonzales, the superintendent of the Burnham Wood Charter School District, said a large portion of new enrollment at his schools is driven by families looking for face-to-face instruction while some public schools remain fully online for at least a few more weeks.
“A lot has to do with face-to-face instruction, parents are in a hard situation, taking their kids to school and trying to keep a job, so I’m glad we can offer a safe place for their kids,” Gonzales said.
As KTSM previously reported, some local districts have started phasing students back to school, but others, including El Paso’s largest school district, won’t offer that option until October 19.
For one local family, leaving an EPISD school for a charter school offering face-to-face since September 8 was ideal.
“I was sad to leave our school, I love our school I loved our principal,” parent Sarah Byrne said. “Teachers did a great job, I mean it wasn’t their fault, they’re just dealing with what they’re given but it’s just hard for 3rd and 1st grade to be engaged over a computer screen.”
Dr. Gonzales said this is a similar situation for other newly enrolled families. The school district bought new property to accommodate the uptick of students.
“We’ve had a lot of involvement from parents coming over and looking at schools and we had more kids than we were expecting so we’re adding some classrooms right now,” Gonzales said.
The superintendent said they are providing safe precautions for all those entering the campus, including mandatory face masks, temperature checks, social distancing and limited contact.
Charter schools are public as well, meaning they do not require tuition. The schools receive Average Daily Attendance funding for each student, which Dr. Gonzales said is roughly between $9,000-$10,000 dollars.
“The less students the less money, the more students, the more money,” Gonzales said.
Dr. Gonzales said he understands some students may leave the charter and return to their public school in the district they live in once they reopen.
“We do not have property taxes so we can’t live on that so it will affect us some, but we’re getting kids everyday, some from are from other schools but the vast majority are new kids so we think it won’t affect us much,” Gonzales said.
However, an EPISD board trustee encourages parents to keep their children in their district.
“Every time a student leaves public school for a charter or private school they are putting the employment of a public school teacher at risk,” District 6 Board Trustee Freddy Klayel-Avalos said.
According to the trustee, this school year, the District’s lost nearly 8,000 students. While they can’t determine if those students left for charters or other districts, he says he’s concerned over the loss of funding.
“A lot of people on the West side, my own district, appear to be the bulk of the students who have opted for other choices, which is fine, but that leaves a district with less money to do more things for kids less privileged,” Klayel-Avalos said.
Burnham Wood Charter Schools said they offer virtual learning as well and EPISD begins phasing students back October 19.