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Charter school group launches in Bastrop County

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    From left to right: Board chair Gwen Martin introduces the rest of the board of directors for Bastrop CAN: Priscilla Ruiz, Bill Owens, Mercathea Hughes, Randan Steinhauser.
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    Children of parents involved with Bastrop CAN express their interest in charter schools during the Bastrop CAN launch meeting on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Julianne Hodges

A group of parents, educators and other community members are working together to attract public charter schools to Bastrop County.

Bastrop Charter School Network (CAN) is a parent advocate network that is working to bring potential charter schools to Bastrop County. Public charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students with flexibility to meet students’ individual needs, according to Bastrop CAN’s website.

The group hosted a meeting at the Bastrop Opera House on Thursday evening, during which they introduced some of their members, explained their goals and answered questions about charter schools and what they are hoping to accomplish. For the full video of the meeting, visit @BastropCAN on Facebook. Bastrop CAN is also planning parent information nights in Bastrop on September 22 and in Elgin on September 29.

A few years ago, Mercathea Hughes and Gwen Martin began advocating for charter schools separately in Elgin and Bastrop respectively before they were connected by Texas Charter Schools Association and joined forces, Hughes said. This year, Randan Steinhauser, who is in the process of moving to Bastrop County, was also connected to Hughes and Martin, and the three of them created Bastrop CAN.

Martin said the group’s immediate goal is to have a charter school open in Bastrop County by fall 2022.

Since any charter school looking at Bastrop County for a new campus would want to know if the local population would be interested, Steinhauser said Bastrop CAN has been communicating with families and gathering information on the community’s level of interest.

“They have to think about it from the perspective of, ‘if we open a school, will they come? Will we be able to fill the seats?’” Steinhauser said. “Our job right now is to present that information to charter schools for them to evaluate if Bastrop may be the right fit for them, and for us to evaluate if it would be the right fit for our community.”

Martin said they want to make sure any potential charter school would be a good fit for the county and its residents. In addition to the board of directors and advisory council, the group includes a parent council with representatives from communities across the county.

“We really want to get an overarching voice so that it isn’t just a few parents making the decisions,” Martin said. “We truly want this to be something that will reflect the community.”

If a charter school is interested in opening in Bastrop County, and Bastrop CAN thinks it would be a good fit for the community, the next step would be to find a location, work on an opening plan and communicate with families about the school’s application process, Steinhauser said. She added that Bastrop CAN is communicating with charter school systems that are able to expand their current systems to open new campuses.

Bastrop CAN is pushing out a survey in order to gain feedback from local parents. As of last week, over 250 families had responded, Hughes said; about 70% have indicated that they would send their child to a charter school, 25% have said maybe, and the remaining five percent said they would not have their children attend a charter school.

“More than anything, we just really believe that parents deserve options when it comes to how their child is educated,” Steinhauser said. “We believe that every child learns differently, and even the very best school isn’t the best fit for every child. … The big overarching goal is that our educational outcomes improve for students in Bastrop County.”