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February 1, 2021

What Is a Public Charter School? And How Does GALS Fit In?

By Cynthia Swanson, Current GALS Parent

Like many kids, ours attended the neighborhood elementary school. Back then, it was easy: our neighborhood school was nearby and did an excellent job preparing students for secondary school. 

When it came time for middle school, we explored options. In 2015, our two older children (twins) began 6th grade at Denver School of Science & Technology (DSST), a Denver Public Schools charter.  A few years later, our youngest child entered middle school at GALS—another DPS charter. Since then, we’ve learned a great deal about public charter school education.

In some circles, “charter school” is a distasteful term. Charters are associated with outside interests, school-for-profit, and inequality. We worried about these issues, but few people we talked to had such associations with DPS charters. 

“Maybe that’s true in other places,” we heard. “But not in Denver. When it comes to charters, DPS is a leader.”

Below are some misconceptions my husband and I have heard about public chartersand the truths we’ve learned since.

Can’t charters do whatever they want? Not in DPS, they can’t.

DPS has rigorous requirements for its charters. For the most part, they follow the same protocols as any other DPS school. For example, our kids have been in remote learning as long as all other DPS students, because DPS charters are required to follow DPS safety protocols.

Aren’t all charters strict? Actually, they’re not.

Some have guidelines (like uniforms or a dress code); these vary from school to school. To learn more, check with the specific school.

Isn’t every charter the same? No.

DPS public charters provide options for different types of learners. At their schools, my kids are known and accepted by teachers and peers. Their unique talents are recognized. 

Don’t charters get to select which students attend? Again—not in DPS.

Public charters in DPS use the same choice (lottery) process as all other DPS schools.

Don’t charters provide a lower standard of education? No.

While not every charter succeeds, many public charters have achieved phenomenal results. Even Governor Polis recognizes this, as evidenced by a recent announcement: “Colorado charter schools have been selected to receive over $2.25M in grants from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ Recovery Innovation and Student Equity (RISE) fund. The fund supports innovative solutions to help state students affected by the economic, social and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (GALS is one of the schools receiving grants. More information is here.)

Speaking of GALS, why did we choose it for our youngest, while our other two attend DSST? The reason is simple: a movement-based, single gender environment fits our daughter’s learning style. Since starting at GALS, her confidence has soared. Pre-pandemic, she burst out of the GALS building every day, smiling and laughing with friends. Parent-teacher conferences were a joy, as our daughter showed us her projects, explained GALS Series to us, and chatted with teachers. Remote school is challenging, of course, but she’s risen to it. She’ll return in-person to GALS in February, now that DPS has given secondary schools the go-ahead for hybrid learning.

Our family’s experiences have taught us there’s no “one size fits all” for school. We’re fortunate that DPS offers public charters—and we know that GALS is the right choice for our daughter.

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