It’s National School Choice Week, a time for parents, students and teachers around the country to celebrate and recognize the diversity of school options available to kids. Sometimes all those options can be overwhelming — Eugene School District 4J alone has five alternative elementary schools.
Fortunately, the Jan. 31 Alternative Education Fair at the Eugene Public Library is here to help. The fair is a one-stop shopping opportunity for parents and students to chat with more than a dozen representatives from local charter schools, private schools and homeschooling advocates.
According to a 2014 survey by the Center for Education Reform, the number of charter schools in the U.S. has grown steadily since 2000, with an average growth rate of 340 schools per year.
“There seems to be a feeling among parents in 4J that public schools are under stress with chronic financial shortages and mandates from the feds that are pushing all kinds of testing on kids,” says Rebecca Daniels, executive director of Network Charter School. “As a longtime parent who’s had kids in both alternative schools and 4J neighborhood schools, I certainly feel that among the parents I know, there are people interested in looking at what the alternatives are.”
Parents can even find alternatives within traditional public school districts, like 4J, which will table at the fair. “We’re not the only choice in this area,” says Kerry Delf, communications coordinator for 4J. “You can choose to attend a school in 4J, or you can look at a charter school or private school.”
Delf says it’s important to distinguish between alternative public schools and public charter schools. “We have different processes,” she says, adding that the deadline for 4J’s school choice lottery is Feb. 27. “A lot of times parents will assume a charter school is in 4J, but we have separate systems for enrollment. If you’re interested in those schools, talk to those schools.”
She says schools such as Corridor Alternative Elementary, a school that specializes in the performing arts, fieldtrips and enrichment programs while still operating within the 4J district, are opportunities for kids to experience alternative learning styles.
Laura Philips with the Eugene Public Library says the fair provides that very opportunity. “It’s been going on for more than a decade,” she says. “It’s a really lively event, and it’s fun because it brings together all these different people who are interested in education. We usually have a few hundred people visiting.”
Other schools tabling include the Eugene Sudbury School, which helped organize the event, High School Connections at LCC, Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School and West Lane Technical Learning Center. The library will also showcase its free, online homework center for students.
The Alternative Education Fair is 1 to 4 pm Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Eugene Public Library.