1. Is there a gap between what the Andover Public Schools now provide (in the STEAM arena) and what a dedicated charter school might do? Yes, there is. But a careful analysis of efforts now under way and planned in the Andover schools can address that gap quite substantially.
Unlike some of the other less well-funded school districts in the commonwealth, Andover is very progressive and carefully blends the desire for well-rounded preparation with the more pronounced needs in the STEAM sector. Finally, the location of a vocational high school in town plus immediate access to other private schools locally affords our populace some excellent choices. Thus, the need appears to be not as great here, relatively speaking, as it might be in more deserving parts of the state.
2. Should the proposed charter school come into being in Andover, the budget impact for both the public schools as well as the general town operations would be severe as the charter school funding is now constituted. This is due primarily to the methodology behind the Chapter 70 aid supplemented by the Chapter 46 reimbursements. Time is necessary to understand the full impact of these financial changes and plan for a potential transition.
3. Andover is one of the last remaining Town Meeting communities where, essentially, all of the key decisions in the operation of the town (and the school district) are determined by the majority of the townspeople. That is the culture of the town. Due to the timing of the proposed STEAM Studio application, there has not yet been enough time to fully examine and evaluate the proposal by the vast majority of Andover citizens. It might well be that sufficient support resides in town to launch this new charter school, but our “socialization” of this issue has not yet been given time to work.