The News Journal reported the approval at a Board of Education meeting in Dover on Thursday.
Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery had recommended and the board had agreed to a delay in the decision, due to an outcry over the plan from critics who claimed the expansion would damage nearby high schools in the Christiana School District and represented an attempt at resegregating schools.
The charter school has a much lower representation of minority students than the overall percentage in its attendance area.
Lowery went on to recommend approval as long as the school worked to improve diversity and had a school lunch program for lower-income students.
She did not recommending altering the school’s current attendance area which allows parents to apply for openings if their residence is within a five-mile radius of the school. The board of the school has not ruled out expanding that radius.
The school, which has been one of the most successful charter schools in the state has a waiting list with students selected via lottery.
The high school would occupy a former industrial building off Elkton Road on the west edge of Newark, next to the current K-8 charter school.
The decision was a difficult one for Lowery and the Board of Education.
Academic performance has been strong at the school. Still, critics say the Newark Charter is “skimming the cream” with motivated parents and students, leaving other schools with even greater challenges and fewer top students.
Neighboring schools might also lack students for programs aimed at top academic performers.
At the same time charter schools are supposed to provide competition aimed at improving all schools.
For the city of Newark, the charter school is a drawing card for prospective residents working to get their children into better schools. The city took no position on the issue.
Lowery also recommended that the school launch an outreach effort to let parents and students in areas around the school learn about their options.
Charter schools must fund start-up costs on their own, but later receive public funds based on the average paid per student within the school district. The scramble for start-up money leaves many charter schools with financial difficulties. Notable exceptions have been the Newark and Wilmington charter schools. – Doug Rainey