front page - search - community 

Out of their league

Charter schools canít compete in DCIAA

(Published September 10, 2001)

By JONATHAN TANNENWALD

Staff Writer

While public charter schools have become popular with many parents for offering a different Ė and often more focused Ė academic climate for their children, charter schools in the District still are unable to offer students a popular activity among the kids: league and varsity sports programs.

School officials even acknowledge that the lack of organized sports programs has driven some students back to the traditional public school system.

And while some attempts have been made to allow the charter schools to play in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association or to form their own league, charter school games "are pretty much just pick-up games," according to Nelson Smith, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board.

D.C. charter schools, while they are technically public schools due to receiving public funding, do not play in the DCIAA, the league of D.C. public schools. When the D.C. Public Charter School Board went to the DCIAA a few years ago to try to get some of its schools into the DCIAA, DCIAA officials did not let them in. Issues cited included insurance problems and the generally small size of charter schools compared to the other public schools.

But some of the charter schools have come together to form a basketball league. Last year, games were played at New Vista Charter School, 100 Peabody St. NW, which is among the three charter schools the D.C. Board of Education is currently trying to shut down.

This league includes Techworld, New Vista, Hyde, Phillips Village Learning Center, Washington Math and Science Technology, and Marriott Hospitality charter schools. They also play a few games each year at Shiloh Baptist Church on the corner of Ninth and P Streets NW.

Recently, the debate has begun anew about allowing charter schools into the DCIAA.

Smith said he is optimistic that some arrangement can be made for the studentsí benefit.

"The leadership of DCPS today has a very different attitude about charter schools than their predecessors did," said Smith. "We found it possible to talk with them in a number of different areas and got a reasonable response.

"As for the issue of going back to the DCIAA, I donít know if thatís been formally raised with them," he said. "I donít know if the reaction today would be the same as it was a couple years ago."

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator