COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho -- Spokane Public Schools announced their intent to incorporate charter schools into the district for the first time this week, but across the border in Idaho, charter schools have been an option for more than ten years.
The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy reported a steady increase in enrollment since 1999.
"It's a really good place to be a student because you're surrounded by other kids that care about your education," said Dan Nicklay, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy Principal.
Soon after Idaho approved charter schools in the late 90s, the school became another option for students in Coeur d'Alene and around the state. Enrollment slowly grew from 1999 to 2002, starting with students between seventh and tenth grades. Now, the school teaches from sixth to twelfth grades with almost four times the original enrollment.
"One size does not fit all,” said Nicklay. “The big box schools don't fit every student."
Nicklay said he believes more people are considering charter schools because the format is about reforming education and helping students enjoy their time in school.
"You're trying to influence the system, you're trying to do it better," he said.
With choice, however, come adjustments. The academy has a stricter dress code than other public schools. Parents also do not have the option of a bus to pick students up.
The focus at the academy is on going to college, something celebrated on the schools’ walls.
"You need to have a specific mission”, added Nicklay, “and you need to protect it at all costs."